Dr Kim McGregor of Rape Preve' />
Sexual abuse counsellors say a new hard line by the Accident Compensation Corporation may have cost a woman's life.
Dr Kim McGregor of Rape Prevention Education, who co-chairs a national network of services for sexual abuse victims, has given the Herald details of a case where a woman committed suicide after ACC told her it wanted a psychiatrist to review her need for counselling.
Identifying details of both the woman and her counsellor have been withheld. But Dr McGregor said that "if the woman had been sure she had ongoing therapy support, and hadn't dreaded another psychiatric assessment, the counsellor wonders whether that would have changed things for her".
Professional bodies representing counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists and social workers have all criticised new ACC rules for sexual abuse cases, due to come into force on October 27, which would require abuse victims to be diagnosed with a mental illness that can be attributed directly to the abuse.
Dr McGregor said the woman who committed suicide had been sexually abused for many years as a child by a family member, and later had years in the mental health system before disclosing the abuse.
"While in the mental health system she had been labelled with a particularly stigmatising psychiatric diagnosis because of her self-harming behaviours and suicide attempts."
The woman received ACC-subsidised counselling after disclosing the abuse and was able to keep a steady job and have a stable relationship.
But her distress was triggered again when she came across a child who had been sexually abused at the same age when her own abuse had started. She had to leave her job and went back to counselling.
After several weeks, ACC told her that "in order to be allocated further counselling sessions she needed to be assessed by an ACC psychiatrist".
She feared that ACC might stop funding her counselling and, because she had quit her job, she could not afford to pay for counselling herself.
Dr McGregor said the woman and her counsellor then tried to work out a plan for her.
"There were many options or ways that she could pay for therapy if ACC decided to decline to pay - whether she could return to work, whether she could take out a loan. They were looking at other options."
But two days after that last session, the woman committed suicide.
ACC chief executive Dr Jan White said that she could not comment on the case without knowing the woman's name, but suicide was always distressing.
She would be concerned if "misinformation in the media" about the proposed rules contributed to the woman's death.
"There is nothing in the proposed changes that will stop people covered by ACC from getting the support they need."