7 Nov 2017

Daughter forced to forgo mum's funeral, says she had 'no support'

9:10 am on 7 November 2017

The daughter of a woman who took her own life says she's been left with no support, and has had to forgo a funeral for her mum as a result.

Heather Cameron, left, and daughter Haley Plaistowe

Heather Cameron, left, and daughter Haley Plaistowe Photo: Supplied

Some others who have lost family members to suicide say they struggled too, and are unaware of the limited services out there to help.

Heather Cameron took her own life three months ago, after years of struggling with mental illness.

Her only daughter Haley Plaistowe said it came as a shock.

"She would have her breakdowns, she'd go into depression, sometimes she'd get admitted into hospital and then she'd come out the other side.

"That's what we all thought was going to happen, we were going to do all that we could for her, and she'd come out the other side ... but she didn't."

In the wake of her mother's death, she said she was given no support and had no idea where to turn to for help, or how she could fund her mother's funeral.

She only had brief contact with police and a local community group.

"The officer who liaises with the coroner was helpful, she gave me mum's stuff back once it was released, and she was very sympathetic ... but that's where it [the support] stopped."

She approached a funeral company, and was told a service would cost $10,000.

As an early childhood teacher, who supports her partner on her one income while he is looking for work, she simply couldn't afford the funeral.

"I feel like someone should have said, 'here's a brochure, with financial support information, counselling information and any other information that people might need' because people like me, the survivors, the family, they need support too," she said.

"Getting up in the morning knowing that person is no longer there is exhausting, having to go through your daily routine is exhausting, let alone trying to do all the extra stuff like organising a funeral on top of that."

Ms Plaistowe settled for a simple cremation, but it still cost her and her family $3000.

Lack of financial support

Since 2010, most relatives of suicide victims cannot get ACC funding for burial expenses.

The government changed the rules arguing suicide is not an accident.

ACC said a person was only eligible if their family member did not know that their actions would lead to death, or they died as a result of a mental injury already covered by ACC.

Figures show only 79 people lodged an ACC claim for financial support for suicide in the past year to June, compared to 350 in 2009/2010.

Families may draw on their KiwiSaver to help in some cases, and Work and Income can provide up to $2000 to people on benefits or who meet certain money and asset criteria.

The Funeral Directors Association's chief executive Katrina Shanks said funerals could cost between $3000 for direct cremation to $20,000 for a big funeral.

"We would like to advocate to the new minister of ACC to widen up the definition of those who can access financial assistance for suicide," she said.

"There's a lot of pressure and emotion and it's very hard on a family when they've lost a family member to suicide, so I think the more we can support these families in their grief and loss, especially if we can take away that financial component and give them some assistance, that would help the families tremendously."

Calls for change

Corinda Taylor, who lost her son, Ross, 20, by suicide in 2013, said the financial support would be helpful.

But she said part of the problem was that families were not informed of the support available - that was why she founded the Life Matters suicide prevention group.

"Nobody tells bereaved people these things, so you don't know what you don't know," she said.

"The postvention support here in New Zealand needs to be much better."

The awareness group Yes We Care agreed and wants to talk to the government about what can be done in the space.

In the meantime, Haley Plaistowe hoped she could raise enough money for a headstone for her mother, and has taken to the crowdfunding website Givealittle to do so.

In the year to June, more than 600 New Zealanders took their own lives.

Where to get help:

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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