See the Te Araroa trail for the route here
MY EXPERIENCES WORKING IN THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM
For the past two and a half years I have been employed part-time as a mental health support worker in “transition” accommodation in Porirua. I was initially shocked and increasingly angered and saddened by the high doses of medication given to the clients I work with.
What I saw is a sort of a catch 22. People are given high doses of anti-psychotic drugs which in the short term appear “to work” by knocking the worst of the distressing symptoms on the head, but at high dosages they also take away everything else as well!! As one person ruefully put it “they took away my disease but they ruined my life”.
It would be hard to imagine a system better designed to magnify damaging feelings of isolation and disempowerment than the system we have at present. Isolation and disempowerment are clearly not helpful for someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
At no stage of the process are clients offered any alternative. Drugs are the only treatment on offer.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE MEDICAL MODEL
The reliance on psychiatric drugs alone is hard to understand given the impressive record of various centres and programmes overseas. E.g. In the U.S. Soteria houses (these were developed by a U.S. Psychiatrist Lauren Mosher) where drugs were either avoided or minimally used; The Freedom Center in USA, where yoga and acupuncture along with Hearing Voices groups are offered; In Finland for many years now, open dialogue therapy with either minimal or no medication has yielded remarkable results with psychosis. In many third world countries where drugs are used much less frequently in the treatment of psychosis, the recovery rates are much better than in the West.
THE HIKOI VISION
A sudden vision arose for me at the end of last year to walk the length of the North Island to raise awareness of these issues.
This is not a personal quest as such. In Joanna Macy’s words “When a change wants to happen, it looks for people to act through. How do we know when a change wants to happen? We feel the want inside us”
It feels less of a lonesome quest when I see it in this light and makes it easier for me to reach out for the support I need to make it happen.
One Woman Walking
Hikoi mobile: 022 1739954