Tracey Ann Ridley, 30, from Hastings, reportedly ended her life after her several calls to the helpline went unanswered. In order to make the 108 helplines (spread across the nation) more accessible and organised, the Ministry of Health, on the recommendation of Coroner Garry Evans, will be implementing a single, integrated telephone helpline.
Ridley, who died from a prescription drugs and alcohol overdose, in the wee hours of the morning on Dec 28, 2012, had reportedly phoned Crisis Line in the morning, but nobody had answered. In the report released by Coroner Garry Evans, he mentioned that he did not have enough evidence to prove whether Ridley's death was accidental or intentional. Evans also recommended the government to review the '108 helplines' in the country to avoid any such unfortunate tragedies in future. According to Evans, the calls to the helplines going unanswered were a concern since it pointed toward a "cry for help."
Evans further recommended that the government should consider reducing the number of helplines, and set up a 24/7 triage call centre to sort callers by priority and kind of assistance required.
Ridley was facing a personal crisis, which prompted her to lock herself in the bathroom and consume drugs and alcohol. She also phoned her family members, who in turn, informed the police. When her brother and the police arrived at her residence, they found her unconscious. All the effort by the paramedics to revive her did not prove fruitful as she died at her home.
Ridley made a call at 2.05 am to the National Depression Helpline and to the Alcohol Drug Helpline three minutes later, informed police to the inquiry. According to the report submitted by the coroner, both the calls were of "short duration" and went unanswered.
When one of the policeman called the Alcohol Drug Helpline (managed by the Ministry of Health), outside the work hours of 8 am to midnight, he was connected to voicemail. The report submitted by Evans also included details of the letter sent to the police by Paula Polkinghorne, who works as manager in Lifeline, a 24/7 helpline provider. Polkinghorne had stated in the letter that call volumes keeps fluctuating, and during busy hours, calls are sometimes not answered immediately.
Meanwhile, a review plan is being prepared by the officials at the Ministry of Social Development, stating the need for the government to consolidate the country's helplines.