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We care... yeah right!

We care... yeah right!

I was driving to work this morning, taking a side street as it is a more direct route to where I was going. I was not the only one; this road was very busy with at least 10 other vehicles traveling down the short length I was on. About 1/2 way down I was forced to veer out of my lane and off the side of the road by a oncoming car, "@#!%" I yelled, followed immediately buy the realisation that it was not the car who was reckless but none other than a 50 something year old man in a wheelchair doing circles in the middle of the road.

There he was, with an ankle bandaged and missing a foot rest he was holding up his leg with his left hand all the while pushing himself round in circles with his right. I dove out of the car "are you alright bud" I exclaimed; the answer was completely incoherent. Now close enough to see him in detail I observed some things: Alternating white and black clothes pegs in a very shambolic beard, multiple chains and baubles all over him and a total inability to communicate his plight. "mentally Ill" I thought to myself, poor guy, I wonder where he needs to go. After 2 more minutes of interrogation I gathered that he wanted to be on a side street about 25 meters away and subsequently wheeled him back to it so that he could be on his way... Down the middle of that road instead! At least it was a much quieter street I consoled myself, and he does seem to know this road by name.

"Our vision is for New Zealand to be a place where people with mental illness have personal power, full participation in their communities and access to a fully developed range of recovery-oriented services." - NZ Mental Health Commission mission statement.

Well he clearly had some level of personal power; locomotion in a wheelchair (well sort of), and few could claim to participate as much as him with their local roading network. And I am not entirely sure about this one but I am not convinced that myself passing by and being the only one to actually stop and help qualifies as "a fully developed recovery-oriented service" especially as it was all I could do to point him in the right direction. But what I do know is if later today, or tomorrow, or the day after that a young lady on her way to work hits him while rat racing down a side street she more than him will have a real need for "recovery-oriented services", I suspect killing a person accident or not would be quite a harrowing experience.

Does anyone else in this country not feel concerned about the state of mental health. Bloody hell! The poor bugger should be in a institution, warm and fed properly, not running circles on a road during a wet day oblivious to where he is or even the danger he is in... This is simply not good enough. When is our government going wake up and realise that integration cannot work for all cases and we simply must do better by our ill. If I see one more ad of someone who looks perfectly fine telling me to "know me before you judge me" I am going to run the risk of being labeled mentally ill too.

I am not criticising the depressed, bipolar or other such people out there; merely the careless bureaucrats who would have us believe that all mentally ill people are like them and able to actually care for themselves most of the time. My father died of brain tumors a number of years ago and were myself and my wife not around to care for him during his last months, I would have hoped that a good kind government would have cared enough to put him somewhere safe till the end... Now I know I would have hoped for way too much, something must be done.

Deane Jessep - Concerned Father and Napier City Councillor.


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