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Psychiatric Survivors Insulted by Attorney-General

Wednesday 13th October

Psychiatric Survivors Insulted by Attorney – General

The Psych Survivors Redress Coalition is insulted that Attorney-General Margaret Wilson has refused to meet with them to discuss redress mechanisms for past abuse in State-run institutions.

Responding to a letter received this week in which the Attorney-General suggests that enough legal mechanisms already exist for survivors to proceed with claims, coalition spokesperson Helen Gilbert says: “It’s crass, insulting and insensitive to send out a letter like this during Mental Health Awareness Week. On the one hand, the government sponsors the promotion of good mental health, while on the other it refuses to engage with people who have experienced appalling treatment at the hand of the state.”

“Look how quickly the Prime Minister has responded to the accusations of abuse at Waiouru,” she says. “Convicted criminals can get compensation for human rights abuses, yet people who have done no wrong are being fobbed off. People have known of abuse in psychiatric institutions for years yet the Government won’t even meet with them.”

Helen Gilbert says that by insisting that survivors lodge legal claims, the government is forcing people to claim financial compensation, even though money is not the main issue for many survivors “Many people with mental illness will be excluded because they don’t have the resources or the resilience to cope with traditional legal systems. Most New Zealanders don’t want to have to face the Court. Survivors have little reason to believe that the State will be sensitive about their particular claims, especially when it was the State that was responsible for causing the damage in the first place,” Ms Gilbert says.

The coalition had previously asked the Attorney-General for a redress process in which psych survivors could have their stories heard in a safe environment without fear of re-victimisation. “There are many forms of redress that are not based on personal compensation,” says Ms Gilbert. “If the government would work with us, we might have memorials to survivors; those who missed out on education might be awarded scholarships; we might publish accounts about the horrors that were endured. Best of all, we could work to ensure that the evils of the past never happen again. That’s the package we are looking for.”


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