Warning: This article is about suspected youth suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

Geoff Booth did not feel there was any reason to worry the last time he saw his son Liam.

He had driven to Sumner Beach to meet the 21-year-old, and they spent the afternoon parked next to the ocean catching up and talking about his plans for the next day.

That was Sunday, October 1.


Eighteen days earlier, Liam had threatened to take his life at Halswell Quarry Park. Police were called and he was taken to Christchurch Hospital for assessment before he was discharged. Booth believes Liam should have been admitted as a mental health inpatient instead of being referred to outpatient care.

Booth had been worried; Liam had been expressing suicidal thoughts for three months.

But when he arrived at Sumner he was put at ease by the mood Liam was in.

They talked, and talked. Booth gave Liam $20 to pay for petrol and Liam said he was planning to buy ham for lunch the next day. They gave each other a hug and went on their way. On the way back into the city, Booth spotted Liam driving out of Redcliffs BP.

Booth was behind Liam and when they got into separate lanes approaching the Ferrymead bridge they engaged in a game of friendly cat and mouse.

"He got a bit in front and then I got a bit in front. Just friendly sort of banter and then he turned right and I turned left. A cheeky wee smile, a wave and that was it," Booth said.

He phoned Liam in the evening to make sure everything was okay. Liam was making his tea.

It would be the last time he would speak to him.

The following morning Booth received a text from Liam's former girlfriend, asking him if Liam had stayed the night with him.

Worried, he decided to go from his home in Greendale to Liam's flat in Beckenham.

On the way, Booth received another text, saying a body had been found in Beckenham Park, about 100m from his son's flat.

Geoff Booth holding a photo of his son. He is questioning why authorities did not take more action to stop his son taking his own life. Photo / Martin Hunter, Christchurch Star
Geoff Booth holding a photo of his son. He is questioning why authorities did not take more action to stop his son taking his own life. Photo / Martin Hunter, Christchurch Star

"I was there within 10 min. He was lying on the ground beneath the tarpaulin. ​I was there probably about 8.10am," he said.

Given it is a suspected suicide, Booth is now speaking out to raise awareness around the topic and to question hospital authorities over his son's Halswell Quarry threats.

On Wednesday he filed a complaint with the Canterbury District Health Board.

"I can't bring him back. That is the hard part. But if I can help a child or young person or family not go through what I have gone through it would be worth it.

"I don't want Liam's death to be in vain."

Liam was a sensitive soul who would do anything for his friends. He had a passion for mixing music, said Booth.

He went flatting when he was 19, shortly after his family moved to Greendale.

A service was held for Liam at the Rolleston Community Centre on Friday, where Booth said Liam was let down by the mental health system.

"There were so many opportunities to support Liam and all the cries for help fell on deaf ears. The mental health system in New Zealand is *****d.

"Suicide is a plague on our young in New Zealand ... whose family is it next?" he said.

On September 13, Booth received a call from Liam at Halswell Quarry Park, who said life was too much.

He called the police who took him to Christchurch Hospital.

"Cops rang me and said they have got him, he is safe and in the back of the car and we are going to take him to the hospital. That was fine and I felt good, he is going to be assessed and possibly admitted," Booth said.

About 11pm he got a phone call from the hospital to say Liam had been assessed and they did not think he will be a threat to himself and would be discharged.

"I said: 'You can't send him home'," Booth said.

He told the hospital if Liam was to be discharged, he would come pick him up.

By the time he arrived at the hospital Liam had already left. Booth tried to call his son but he didn't answer until 6am.

In the weeks leading up to his death, Liam received counselling at the City Mission where he had previously been referred to as a result of being part of the crisis resolution team at Hillmorton Hospital.

Liam received drug and alcohol counselling at the City Mission. Booth also took Liam to a medical centre in a bid to take steps to get him on a sickness benefit to take work pressure off him.

But it was a long process and nothing had happened before he died.

"They provided him a form, form is done online. But it takes quite a bit of time to get in front of someone at Work and Income. We were still in the throes of getting him an appointment at the time of his death.

"We never got him on the sickness benefit. That might have been a benefit to him that he didn't have to worry about work and concentrate on getting better," Booth said.

About five months ago, Booth was first made aware his son was battling mental health issues and that he had been put on anti-depressants.

Booth wasn't certain what had triggered Liam, but said either drugs or alcohol were involved when he had an episode.

"That is when he first went on some medication. That had some stigma, he didn't want to take pills. It was almost admitting his brain wasn't working right and that was hard," Booth said.

Liam had been to Hillmorton Hospital as an outpatient and had been counselled 20-30 times on site and on the phone.

"I took him early one morning. We had to sit outside until they open because they don't open until 8.30am," Booth said.

Liam did not tell his father a lot about the counselling sessions, but he did say after the second City Mission session he was told he was clinically depressed.

Liam lived with three flatmates in Beckenham. But he didn't want other people to know he had issues.

About three months ago Booth became aware his son was potentially suicidal.

"He didn't attempt anything but he was sort of talking about this life wasn't for him, but you don't think it is going to happen," Booth said.

The health board extended its sympathies to Liam's family on their tragic loss, a spokeswoman said.

"In the event of a ... sudden death, a formal review of care is undertaken by mental health services and the coroner.

"We will not be providing any comment on this case as we prefer to talk to families directly if they have any concerns."

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.


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)

- Star.Kiwi