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Student told she couldn’t stay in VUW hall after suicide attempt

A first-year Victoria University student was evicted from her hostel the day after she tried to commit suicide.

Story from RNZ Checkpoint, 25 September 2018, by journalist Emma Hatton
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Warning: This story discusses details of assault and suicide that may be triggering.

Dani tried to end her life in October 2017 at Cumberland House, in Wellington.

Her father flew down from Tauranga to be with her.

Hours after being discharged from hospital the next day, the hall manager told her she could not stay because of health and safety reasons.

“Me and dad went back to the hall and the hall manager asked to meet with us. She did the whole mandatory ‘are you okay’ thing, but was then like ‘okay, you can’t stay here, we don’t want you to stay here’.”

“I understood it as there were exams going on which were stressful, obviously a lot of gossip, but my dad asked ‘whose health and safety are we talking about here?’.”

Victoria University Student and Campus Living Director Rainsforth Dix said the hall environment was not conducive to Dani’s recovery.

“The University has to weigh up the rights of individuals against the collective good of the hall community and the potential impact on other students,” she said.

“In this case, following an incident, the Head of Hall met with the student and a parent. They were told that after a critical incident, the counselling service recommends a period of respite before returning to the hall. They were also advised that in this case, the hall environment was not considered conducive to the student’s recovery.”

The hall also kept the remaining weeks of her rent which she had paid in advance.

Dani had a tough first-year at University. Photo by RNZ / Richard Tindiller

After her father emailed university management, the money was refunded.

“That was only because my dad pushed. They were willing to keep my money that I’d paid up until November 18. They run it as a business.”

Accepting a place at Cumberland House in October 2016, she filled out all the paperwork – including disclosing under the medical conditions section – that she had been clinically diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression and anxiety.

Dani said the hall staff and Residential Assistants were ill-equipped to deal with the “real and gritty” issues she had faced.

At the start of 2017, a few weeks after she moved in, she was sexually assaulted.

A short time after that she requested a room change due to a falling out with her roommate.

She was moved three doors down from the person who had assaulted her at the start of the year.

Some months passed and Dani started dating another student; shortly after she became pregnant, and miscarried.

“I had to go through this experience on a really gross student hall bathroom floor, it wasn’t fun. And I didn’t feel that I could go to any of the staff and be like – ‘hey this has just happened, what do I do’.”

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said evicting someone because they have had a mental health crisis was not appropriate.

He said people under 25 were the age group that experienced the highest levels of psychological distress and that the highest rate of suicide in New Zealand was among those aged between 15 and 24.

He said the eviction likely caused significant distress at a time when Dani needed kindness and understanding.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354  or text HELP to 4357
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email [email protected]
What’s Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children’s helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155