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Helping Our Young To Counter Their Fears

Sir Edmund Hillary calls her a remarkable woman – a person of courage and determination. She is credited with helping thousands of people around the country with anxiety, phobic and obsessive compulsive disorders. She is the author of three books, and recently Marcia Read lent her face to a television promotion for the ‘Like Minds’ campaign to tackle stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

Almost twenty years ago, Marcia co-founded the Phobic Trust with David Ludbrook, an orthopaedic surgeon. For a long time, both had lived with anxiety disorders and/or depression, and because of the fear and misinformation associated with illnesses of this nature, had kept their experiences hidden away. Marcia, who suffered from agoraphobia in her younger days, found it difficult to get treatment – or even acknowledgement that treatment existed.

One year later, David was killed in a car accident – leaving Marcia shattered. She battled on though, and today she is the chief executive of the Phobic Trust. Recently her daughter Fiona took on a role of fundraising for the Trust’s respite clinic, and David Ludbrook’s son Edward, who has shown a strong and powerful interest in the Phobic Trust, is looking forward to joining the Board.

“To see the second generation step up to the fold is validation of a lifetime’s work, it’s fantastic,’ says Marcia. ‘They’re here because they believe in it – it is a vindication to David and myself and all those people who have worked so hard.”

The Trust offers a wide range of services to people suffering anxiety, phobic and compulsive disorders including a 24-hour support phone line, specialist clinics and research into these illnesses. Marcia has also campaigned for awareness and education initiatives – petitioning Parliament and speaking publicly wherever she can.

“I’m trying to bring a big problem out of the closet”, she says. This was the reason she agreed to appear in the ‘Like Minds’ television campaign. “I think the ads will have an impact and make a big difference … if you have a phobia it’s not a lightweight problem, it can be very serious and also can be lethal. Also, most people don’t realise it’s extremely common”

Marcia say’s her family think the ads are very powerful. “I want people to see that although I’ve had this experience, I’m a business manager; I’m also intelligent, and able to do other things in my life and have numerous interests.”

A board of seven (including former Split Enz bassist Mike Chunn, who appears alongside Marcia in the television campaign), and five advisors, including Judge Mick Brown, run the Trust. Its patron is kiwi supermodel Kylie Bax.

Next week the Trust launches a video, Scary Thoughts, to meet the needs of young people experiencing anxiety disorders. Marcia says it is her firm belief that “we should give young people the confidence to talk about their fears so that open and honest discussion will lessen stigma and stop young people from seeing themselves as ‘different’ from their friends and peer groups.”

The video is a companion to a recently released book of the same name, written to help young people and their families understand fear, shyness, strange rituals and other disturbing feelings.

“A young person with a phobia about germs had washed himself constantly since the age of five years. He would not sit on chairs after other people. From a young age all his toys and books were stacked systematically. Later on, if his school or homework was less than perfect, he had to destroy the paper and re-do the whole page. Excessive time was spent writing essays and redoing his work. At ten he started checking the locks in his home and stayed up after his family to complete his rituals. His parents were desperate and tried many avenues of help. Finally at twelve, he talked to his parents of suicide. In desperation they bought him to the Anxiety Disorders Clinic. This young man was assessed and diagnosed as having OCD … he was treated in a variety of ways involving a specialist team who gave medication, cognitive therapy, family training and support. Today he lives a life relatively free of obsessions and rituals.”

The Scary Thoughts video, endorsed by Children’s Commissioner Roger McClay, will be launched at Parliament on the 17th October. Sponsorship has enabled a large group of youth to attend the evening. The Scary Thoughts video will be launched by MP Liz Gordon, who herself experiences agoraphobia and appears in the television campaign.

The evening is called ‘Share your Fear’, and will reinforce the Trust’s fundraising campaign and anxiety awareness week in March next year.

For more information, contact:
Marcia Read, Chief Executive, Phobic Trust
Tel: 09- 846 9776 / E-mail: clinic@phobic.co.nz

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