It was only a matter of time before we heard a story like this: A person calling a 24/7 mental health crisis line and being told no one was available to help her... and she should call back tomorrow.

This Auckland woman rings a crisis line, designed for people in crisis, so at their very wits' end, and she gets told the on-call clinician is "asleep". How on earth is this possible? It's a 24/7 helpline.

You are the 'on-call' clinician, how is it possible you're asleep? And if you are, how is it possible you still have a job?


For people at their very lowest ebb, they're not in any position to hear 'call us back tomorrow'.

This woman was understandably devastated by the response. She felt angry and helpless and I am not surprised. It's appalling.

The response from the Waitemata District Health Board is also far from satisfactory. Its communications officer said in statement that, "providing the best care for every patient is our priority".

What? No it's not. That's a blatant lie given you've got an on-call clinician for a mental health crisis line, asleep!

How's that prioritising anybody other than the clinician? Not only were they not providing the best care, they weren't providing any care.

It takes enormous courage to call a crisis line, it is often a very last resort, from someone in dire straits. It is not a time to fob someone off.

How is it an after hours crisis team doesn't know this?

Not only does the Waitemata DHB have an after hours on-call clinician, they also have on-call nursing staff available to assist with overnight assessments. When one of them is not available, callers are apparently transferred to the adult in-patient mental health unit - where, according to the DHB, a clinical nurse is available 24/7 all-year round.

So why then, was this woman told to call back tomorrow?

How is it nobody - absolutely nobody - was available to help her?
Was literally everyone at the Waitemata DHB asleep?

It beggars belief that in a time where we could not have more of a spotlight on mental health issues, helplines, risk and strategy to help those in crisis, that we can still have someone ring up in the middle of the night, in crisis, and be told, 'sorry, can't help, call back tomorrow.'

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youth services: (06) 3555 906
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
The Word
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.