One Small Step for Mental Health Consumers

By Eileen McAtee

The Working Group expresses its concern relating to the widespread practice of seclusion in psychiatric units. While recognizing the Government’s achievement in reducing the incidents of seclusion since 2009, the Working Group urges the authorities to eliminate this practice.

(From the United Nations Working group on Arbitrary Detention Statement at the conclusion of its visit to New Zealand 24 March –7 April 2014)

By Eileen McAteeThe United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has been in New Zealand for three weeks visiting places of detention around New Zealand and meeting with representatives from the Human Rights Commission, the legal profession , academics and representatives of civil society organisations.

End Seclusion Now a lobby group calling for an immediate end to the practice of solitary confinement (or seclusion) in our hospitals made a submission to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The submission asked the Working Group to strongly denounce the practice of seclusion in mental health facilities in New Zealand, to call for legislative change and to restore the right of individuals to have their complex and challenging responses to their life situations responded to in a way that does not cause further trauma. Members  of End Seclusion Now, who are able to personally  testify to the trauma caused by the practice of seclusion,  also  met  with  a member of the Working Groups Secretariat from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

The Secluded Individual Bullseye Diagram, developed by Anne Helm,  expresses the impacts of the practice on the secluded person. It addresses the four dimensions of the person as set out in Te Whare Tapa Whā written about by Dr Mason Durie. Seclusion negatively affects these interrelated dimensions, Taha Tinana (physical health), Taha Hinengaro (psychological health), Taha Wairua (spiritual health) and Taha Whanau (family health).

The United Nations Working Group  will present their full report  and recommendations to the NZ government  towards the end of the year.



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