Fam­ily’s plea for sup­port, not si­lence

Christchurch Mail - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - MATTHEW SAL­MONS

The pain is raw in Ge­off Booth’s voice and the tears flow eas­ily as he speaks about his son Liam. He holds a bag of his son’s clothes he was given by the police. ‘‘It still smells like him.’’ Liam, a 21-year-old Christchurch temp worker with a pas­sion for mix­ing mu­sic, died by sus­pected sui­cide last week, leav­ing his fam­ily dev­as­tated.

‘‘He was a char­ac­ter. He had a sense of hu­mour but was very sen­si­tive,’’ Ge­off said.

‘‘He was into mix­ing mu­sic, a DJ sort of thing. He was re­ally good at it, loved it. He would go and do sets at clubs in town.’’

Ge­off, along with Liam’s brothers Con­nor and Finn and step-mum Carolyn Jones were at home again in Green­dale af­ter the worst week in the fam­ily’s life.

The fu­neral fin­ished mere hours be­fore the fam­ily met with Stuff, but as we en­ter Men­tal Health Aware­ness Week they were adamant his story was told.

Liam had had his is­sues, Ge­off said. He had pre­vi­ously at­tempted sui­cide in Septem­ber but emer­gency ser­vices were able to in­ter­vene in time to save him.

Af­ter Liam was held for a time, Ge­off said he was told by the men­tal health ser­vice that they did not con­sider Liam a risk to him­self.

‘‘I said he’s only got to get to get it right once, just once, and there’s no com­ing back. Where are we to­day?’’

Although Ge­off pleaded with health work­ers to keep Liam, he was told he had been sent home in a taxi be­fore they had called.

‘‘There were op­por­tu­ni­ties for Liam to get the right help, but the cries for help all seemed to fall on deaf ears,’’ Ge­off said.

He said Liam had been in­volved with the men­tal health sys­tem un­til the Fri­day be­fore his death.

‘‘They dis­charged him from Hill­mor­ton on Fri­day. They be­lieved he was on the right path and the file for him was closed.’’

A Can­ter­bury District Health Board (CDHB) spokes­woman said the DHB ex­tended its sym­pa­thies to the Booth fam­ily in the wake of their tragic loss. She said in the event of a sud­den death, a ‘‘for­mal re­view of care is un­der­taken by men­tal health ser­vices and the coroner’’.

The CDHB would not pro­vide fur­ther com­ment on the case as they pre­ferred to deal di­rectly with the fam­ily if they had con­cerns.

Ge­off saw his son for the last time the next day in Sum­ner. They shared some laughs and talked of Liam’s plans to get ready for work. Hear­ing Liam’s plans for mun­dane things gave him hope, he said.

‘‘He had a cheeky smile, he waved at me, then he went that way and I went the other. That was the last time I saw him alive.’’

Liam’s body was found the Mon­day af­ter.

Ge­off said the fam­ily hoped that by shar­ing their story, it would help the fight against the plague of sui­cide.

‘‘If I could avoid one fam­ily go­ing through what we’ve gone through, it’s a start and that’s what it comes down to.’’

Ge­off said he spoke to Liam’s friends at the fu­neral as he wanted them to take some­thing away from the day.

‘‘You need to watch each other and look af­ter each other. I don’t want to at­tend one of your funer­als and see your fam­ily go through what our fam­ily’s go­ing though.

‘‘Watch your friends; if any of them with­draw, there’s some rea­son. Talk to them, un­der­stand, bring them back in.’’

There were no in­struc­tions on what to do in the event of sui­cide, Ge­off said, and peo­ple avoided the topic in­stead of tack­ling the is­sue.

‘‘We want sup­port at the top of the cliff, not to pick up the pieces at the bot­tom,’’ he said.

Carolyn said that while things were get­ting bet­ter, the ‘‘pull your­self to­gether at­ti­tude’’ still ex­isted.

She said peo­ple treated men­tal health is­sues dif­fer­ently to other health is­sues, but they should be ap­proached in the same way. Some­thing was bro­ken and needed to be fixed.

‘‘We’re not valu­ing good men­tal health like we should. We’re only pick­ing at the sur­face.’’

SUPPLIED

One of Liam Booth’s mother Deb­bie’s favourite photos of her son.

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