Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Safety more important than ill son's need to be outside, Nicky Stevens inquest told

Jane Stevens said her son may have wanted to be outside, but it was too dangerous for him to go alone. Photo / Doug Sherring
Jane Stevens said her son may have wanted to be outside, but it was too dangerous for him to go alone. Photo / Doug Sherring

Warning: This story deals with suspected suicide and may be upsetting.

The safety of her son should have been more important than his love of nature, Jane Stevens has told an inquest into Nicky Stevens' death.

The 21-year-old wandered away from a Hamilton mental health facility while on an unsupervised cigarette break in March 2015.

His body was found three days later, on March 12, in the Waikato River.

The psychiatrist in charge of Nicky's care, whose identity is suppressed, was trying to balance his desire to go outside with his parents' concerns that he had tried to kill himself twice in the weeks before his death, the court heard.

But Stevens said Nicky's safety as a patient of the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre should have been given priority over his need to be outside and smoke.

"For me the most important thing was Nicky's safety. There had to be a balance of all these things but safety was paramount."

She felt daily escorted leave with family should have taken care of Nicky's desire to be outside.

During questioning from Harry Waalkens, QC, acting for the psychiatrist, Stevens denied Nicky - who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia - did not want his parents involved in his care.

Nicky was delusional and believed aliens were trying to kill his family and friends. He also believed the clinicians were aliens, his mother said.

She had to betray her son's trust and tell doctors about his behaviour and suicidal thoughts, which she admitted was challenging.

However when Waalkens suggested Nicky told staff he did not want Stevens, and his father Dave Macpherson, included in his care, she said records did not reflect that.

"I do not accept that."

During questioning from coroner Wallace Bain, Stevens said she was informed on March 3 by the Waikato District Health Board psychiatrist who took over her son's care the day before, that Nicky's unescorted leave had been reinstated to two 15-minute breaks a day.

Only the day before, Nicky's unescorted leave had been put on hold and the family understood they would be involved in any decisions to change that.

The psychiatrist's evidence was contradictory to Stevens', stating that no major concerns were raised by the family over Nicky having unescorted leave.

Where to get help

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757

- NZ Herald

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