ONE WOMAN WALKING FOR WISER CHOICES:
A HIKOI TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE AND CHOICE
IN MENTAL HEALTH CARE
by Annie Chapman
WHERE/WHEN AM I WALKING?
The length of the North Island, from Cape Reinga to Wellington, following the Te Araroa trail, from December 2012 – April 2013
WHY AM I WALKING?
The aim of the Hikoi is to raise awareness about the need for change and choice in the treatment of people diagnosed with mental illness in New Zealand. Any extra funds raised over and above the expenses of the walk will be donated to Hearing Voices NZ, an organisation which provides general support, information and facilitated support groups for people who experience hearing voices.
WHY DO WE NEED CHANGE?
Over the past two and a half years, in the role of a support worker for a Mental Health Trust I have witnessed the outcomes of a medical-model approach to mental illness. These include:
• life-long patterns of dependence and disempowerment
• life-threatening side-effects of many psychiatric medications
• limited effectiveness and withdrawal problems
• lack of accurate information re the side-effects for consumers of psychiatric medication
I have also had brought to my attention
• continued use of compulsory electro-convulsive therapy
• increased prescribing of psychiatric drugs to children
Hugh Norris (Director of Policy and Development in the Mental Health Foundation), and Gary Platz (Strategic Advisor for Wellink Trust) are both supportive of the Hikoi and its aims.
‘I enthusiastically support Annie in taking this bold stand to improve the dignity and quality of life of people experiencing mental illness’ Hugh Norriss
WHAT ARE WISER, MORE RESPECTFUL CHOICES?
Research suggests that better long-term outcomes can be achieved by offering people a wider range of positive, empowering alternatives, with or without short-term or lower dose medication as part of treatment. Examples are:
• Effective personal advocacy
• Access to psychotherapeutic help
• Tailored advice regarding diet and exercise
• Facilitated peer groups
• Complementary therapies and practices
• Advice and support to safely reduce or come off medications
ARE THESE MORE EXPENSIVE?
In the short-term, some of these options may look expensive. But if you consider the long-term consequences and costs involved for people:
• living on a benefit for the rest of their life
• requiring high doses of government-subsidized medication
• needing constant health-monitoring because of these drugs
• the health bill involved in dealing with the physical side-effects,
it is time our society did some serious analysis. Even in financial terms, the cost-effectiveness of the current medical model over the long term appears dubious at best. And that is without considering the enormous human costs.