Category Archives: Mental health

Mental Health Blog Fest!

Check out the impressive (109 and counting) International blog roll of people with experience of distress who have something to say.  There is something there for everyone, I haven’t had time to browse yet but even the names are evocative…Bipolar Manifesto,  It’s Good to be Crazy SometimesSocial Nutmeg LivingMy Anxiety Diaries,  A Bipolar Insomniac’s Late Night ThoughtsMake BPD Stigma-Free!,  Borderline Blonde,  The Elephant in the Room. Lauren has pulled this together for her project getting mental health bloggers around  the world to contribute to an art auction.  Take a look and  let us know in the comments what your favourite is.

bylaurenhayley 109 mental health blogs and counting… 

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Seclusion — what part do we all play?

By Eileen McAtee

Seclusion, forcibly confining or restraining a person in isolation in a room that is  barely furnished,   in mental health services has been in the media spotlight this week, following publicity about a young man  who has been in seclusion 23 hours a day for the past 3 years. See article in the Dominion Post and  this interview with  his father on National Radio.  It is hard to fathom how this situation can have continued for so long, or the degree of  trauma he has experienced over that time.

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Further coverage of seclusion followed the release of the Annual Report from the Office of the Director of Mental Health which reports, among other things,  on rates of seclusion by age , gender and District Health Board *. The report reveals that more than 1000  patients spent a total of 60,000 hours locked in seclusion last year.  As far as I can make out the seclusion statistics for Regional Rehabilitation Services, where the young man has been in continuous solitary confinement were not reported.  What the report does show is that  Māori are twice as likely to be secluded as non Māori. Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa in Waikato suggested this is because  some staff have a preconceived idea that Māori patients could be aggressive. The report also revealed seclusion rates at  Southern DHB  are  3 times the national average.

It seems timely to release the Kites Position paper on the Use of Seclusion in Mental Health Treatment Facilities in New Zealand . In a nutshell we assert that the use of seclusion be eliminated from all psychiatric facilities for the following reasons:

  1. It is a violation of human rights
  2. It is traumatising for all involved and especially for the person being secluded. This trauma can have serious negative effects for many years
  3. It can seriously damage any trust people may have in mental health services and diminish the likelihood they will seek treatment from them in the future.

The bigger picture is that we all have a role to play if the practice of seclusion is to be eliminated . If we, as a society, demand that people are “cared for”  to keep us safe, we end up with a risk adverse mental health system , and in some situations extreme inhumanity and cruelty to our fellow citizens .

Mental health services are in a conflicted  situation because the attitudes of and beliefs of many in our communities is that people who are mentally ill are dangerous and unpredictable, and need to be cared for within psychiatric facilities away from the public. This forces treatment facilities to become places of containment and social control and not places of compassion and healing.

If we are to eliminate seclusion from mental health services then all of us need to challenge our beliefs about mental distress and be open to alternative ways of supporting people. This paper provides some ideas about alternative ways of thinking and the  Like Minds, Like Mine Programme  is a  positive step in challenging our attitudes.

The video below,  Opening Doors developed by Awareness: Canterbury Action on Mental Health and Addictions delivers  a powerful message about  the impact of seclusion on all those involved.

* Also concerning in the report is the continuing rise in the number of compulsory treatment orders but that will have to be the subject of another blog .

Diagnosis debate hotting up

Happy participantsBy Eileen McAtee

The release of the DSM V has sparked a flurry of critique about both the validity and the usefulness of psychiatric diagnosis.

In an  interview on Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story Americas”   recently Robert Whitaker commented  that a helpful diagnostic text must be both reliable and valid, and the DSM is neither.

Allen Frances, who is also  interviewed for the story, visited Wellington last year. Our blog about the diagnosis workshop held during his visit is available  here.

Seclusion and the Health and Disability Standards

By Eileen McAtee


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The Health and Disability Standards are under review.  Health and disability services are audited under these standards. HealthCERT, a business group at the Ministry of Health, are doing this work and are currently requesting input via a survey process. It is a relatively short survey open until the 24th of May and I encourage as many people as possible to participate. The standards will not be up for review again for several years.

I thought I would share some of our thoughts here at Kites about the need for changes to one standard in particular: ‘Safe Seclusion Use’, in the Restraint Minimisation and Safe Practice Standards. Continue reading Seclusion and the Health and Disability Standards

From the Darkness into the Light

by Darcey Jane

Speech for the Like Minds, Like Mine Seminar May 3, 2013

I am excited to be standing up here in front of all of you today. It is a real privilege. Thank you for this opportunity.

I have been with the Like Minds, Like Mine programme for nine years so far. Sometimes I think that is too long and I should move on to something else, something new to challenge me. I worry that I may be too stagnant where I am. Sometimes I look at other jobs out there, I have even gone so far as to apply and been interviewed. But I am still here. Why? Well, I was recently elected as Chair of the Like Minds national reference group for one thing. That brings with it a fresh challenge, what does Chair do? How do we make best use of the reference group for the programme?

Everything comes back to meaning and purpose. It took me a long time to get here, and to realise that here is more than just a job that pays the bills. Here gives me meaning and helps define not only what I do, but who I am. But who am I? Let me tell you a story. Continue reading From the Darkness into the Light

Connecting through the mutuality of madness

First Impressions of the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) 2013 by Darcey Jane

First, I’d like to thank the people who made my participation in this amazing experience possible. All the other people with lived experience without whom none of this would be happening; my manager, Marge Jackson, who encouraged me to attend; Te Pou for awarding me a scholarship to fund my attendance, and the people on my exchange, my peers, who made it such an inspiring and enriching experience.

It was a privilege taking part in the 2013 IIMHL in Wellington and Auckland, March 4–8. The conference consists of two parts: a two-day exchange with others involved in the mental health system, and a two-day networking conference. Despite living and working in Wellington, I chose to take part in the peer support and consumer leadership exchange hosted by Mary O’Hagan, Gary Platz, and Shaun McNeil (in Wellington) as this is my area of interest and expertise. My peers on the exchange were Jenny Speed (Queensland, Australia), Noel Muller (Queensland, Australia), Carla Harmer (Ontario, Canada), Gayle Brislane (Christchurch, NZ), Holly Kotlowski (Christchurch, NZ), Vicki Burnett (Auckland, NZ), Treena Martin (Wellington, NZ), Shaun McNeil (Wellington, NZ), Claire Moore (Auckland, NZ), Mary O’Hagan (Wellington, NZ), Arana Pearson (Wellington, NZ), Gary Platz (Wellington, NZ), Amanda Reid (Wellington, NZ), Johnny Siaosi (Auckland, NZ), and Dan Fisher (Massachusetts, USA).Wellink exchange, IIMHL 2013

In preparation for this conference Continue reading Connecting through the mutuality of madness

Conversation about Diagnoses: Help or Hindrance?

By Eileen McAtee
July 16th, 2012, Wellington.

The recent diagnosis forum facilitated dialogue between people who have received psychiatric diagnoses, scientists, clinicians and lawyers. The forum was the vision of  Robert Miller. Robert is a neuroscientist diagnosed with schizophrenia.  Kites Trust supported the organisational aspects  of the forum.

Happy participants

The dialogue between the diverse groups was unique for New Zealand (and internationally according to Professor Allen Frances) and showed that the mental health sector can have challenging conversations and respect views different to our own. Continue reading Conversation about Diagnoses: Help or Hindrance?