Family’s plea for support, not silence
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.’’
One of Liam Booth’s mother Debbie’s favourite photos of her son.