Coroner tells counsellors to seek further advice for clients with depression or suicidal thoughts

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NZN

A coroner has called for counsellors helping those with depression or suicidal thoughts to seek further, expert advice in the wake of a Hamilton man's suicide.

The DHB's also developed a Far North local response group, a school based initiative and a suicide prevention training programme for youth workers

Source: 1 NEWS

Jonathan Coates, 30, died in July, 2016. He had been diagnosed with depression earlier that year, a few months after breaking up with his girlfriend.

An inquest into Mr Coates' death heard that while his girlfriend was supportive, she could not cope with his mood swings, temper and threats of suicide, which had become steadily worse.

Mr Coates - an IT worker - had counselling sessions, but not with a registered psychotherapist, who should have referred him to a specialist in suicide risk assessment, coroner Michael Robb said in his report.

"Counselling can be provided for a variety of purposes and can be carried out by people with a wide range of different qualifications, experience and expertise," he said.

"For a lay person, understanding the difference between a counsellor, a psychotherapist, a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist is not easy - there can be a significant difference in the level of training, experience and expertise between each, and consequently the help that they can provide."

Mr Robb said the fact Mr Coates was seeing a counsellor led others to "feel a level of reassurance that Jonathan was receiving appropriate help".

"That reduced the likelihood that Jonathan would be referred or directed or advised to see further professional help with his depression and thoughts of suicide."

He recommended counsellors receive more training about suicide assessment and that more information sharing be carried out between counsellors or specialists and GPs, despite potential difficulties with the Privacy Act, "in the best interests of the patient".

Mr Coates' GP, who was prescribing medication to Mr Coates for depression, should have been made more aware of his patient's counselling, Mr Robb said.

Need to talk? 1737 – Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354
Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 or www.depression.org.nz
The Lowdown: A website to help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety. www.thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626
SPARX.org.nz – Online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed
OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463 for support related to sexual orientation or gender identity

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