I had fifteen minutes to convince a new doctor that I was at risk of killing myself.

Robbie's Story

"When I went to university my student debt started to pile up. The contact time with teaching staff was reduced until office hours with our tutor were one half hour per week. My anxiety became a mild depression.

In November 2016, two years after graduating from university, I was thinking about suicide and worried I might take action. I googled mental health support services and texted the Depression Helpline at 4202. They suggested I get support from a counsellor I could talk to in person.

I considered going to Evolve, who provide free counselling for people 24 and under, but they were only in a position to take on clients in desperate need of support. I spent $50 to visit my GP, which was a lot of money for me at the time. He wrote me a prescription for Escitalopram, and recommended I go to the Wellington Anxiety Specialists. Unfortunately, it turned out that the Karori Medical Centre was no longer affiliated with the Wellington Anxiety Specialists, so I couldn’t be referred to them directly. I visited my doctor for another $50, and he filled out a form to help me get financial support from WINZ.

I visited WINZ for the first time that November. It turned out my doctor had filled out the wrong form. Unbeknownst to me, I was also eligible for other financial support because of my low income. I was given a large number of forms to fill out, and asked to provide a lot of supporting evidence. It seemed unlikely to me that a person with depression would make it through the paperwork.

I don’t get letters - I get emails, which made it difficult to prove my address. I don’t own a printer, so I made regular visits to my parents’ house to use theirs. I was lucky to have a passport and driver’s license, because I needed two forms of identification. My boss had accidentally stopped sending me my payslips, which was another obstacle. I had letters signed by landlords and flatmates. I visited the Wellington Anxiety Specialists for the second time; they signed a document to confirm that they would offer me support. I visited my GP for the third time, for another $50, this time to have him fill out the correct form. He was away at the time. I had fifteen minutes to convince a new doctor that I was at risk of killing myself.

Escitalopram can increase anxiety when you first start taking it, and by February 2017 I had still not successfully received counselling. I had an emotional breakdown, and I cried in my room. I made a noose and rested my head in the loop. I let the weight of my head pull the noose tighter. I found it comforting to think that there was a way out. There was a moment of stillness, and I thought of my family. I didn’t want them to find me there. I took my head out of the loop and called my friend. The next week my parents found a way to pay for counselling. They couldn’t afford it, but they reached into their overdraft.

Last week [in late March] the money from WINZ came through”

Robbie Nicol