Family Wants Self-Diagnosis Considered By Crisis Teams
Friday, 8 October, 2010 – 19:40
Wellington, Oct 8 NZPA – The family of a young Wellington man who committed suicide in 2008 say they will urge Health Minister Tony Ryall to ensure medical professionals dealing with mental health patients in crisis situations respect self-diagnosis of autism "until further inquiries can be made".
Finn O'Higgins Higgins (CRCT), 26, was found dead on Mount Victoria in March 2008, nearly a month after he fled his home without his wallet or shoes.
He had been suffering depression and had diagnosed himself as having Aspergers syndrome, a form of autism often associated with difficulties in communicating and understanding other people's emotions.
Mr Higgins' father, Sean Higgins, told Wellington regional coroner Ian Smith his son had a phobia about police and bureaucrats. This led to anxiety, agitation and terror when his former partner told police he had threatened suicide and Finn Higgins was followed by a "mufti" car, stopped with road spikes and taken into custody.
Sean Higgins told the coroner he believed that the initial mental health intervention — a prescription for an anti-depressant, Citalopram — effectively poured petrol on the fire. An article in the British Journal of Psychiatry last year suggested the drug could increase anxiety, he told Mr Smith.
Professor Graham Melsop, of Auckland University, told the coroner such an effect was unlikely so quickly, and Mr Smith said today in his ruling of suicide that the medication was appropriate "provided the patient is monitored in the early days".
"There were quite serious defects with the processes taken by both the police and the mental health services," Mr Smith said.
"The latter did offer Finn respite care facilities that he chose not to accept which, in theory, should have relieved some of his anxiety symptoms."
The family told the coroner that many people with Aspergers led fulfilling lives with no involvement with mental health services. It asked that a website of first-person stories it had collected on Aspergers ( www.as-stories.co.uk) be used in the training of mental health workers.
It wanted acceptance that any patient in a mental health crisis who attributed their condition to Aspergers "should have their self-diagnosis respected until further enquiries can be made".
Sean Higgins earlier told the court that it had been a fundamental mistake that police and healthworkers considered his son's former partner as family: "It was unjust to both of them," he said.
She also received treatment for depression, was on medication, and was not suitable to have been regarded as his caregiver, Sean Higgins said.