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Finalist spot for mental health champion

Media release:

October 11 2016

Finalist spot for mental health champion

Debra Lampshire waited 18 years for health professionals to heal her, but in the end realised the only person who could do that was herself.

These days the Mount Roskill woman is considered to be at the forefront of attitudinal change surrounding mental health service provision in New Zealand and has developed worldwide recognition in her approach to encourage people to be active participants in their own recovery.

Mostly recently Debra (58) has been selected as a finalist in the Making a Difference category of the 2016 Attitude Awards. The national awards celebrate the excellence and achievements of Kiwis with disability and chronic health.

When it comes to making a difference within the mental health system, Debra’s personal experiences have played a big role. Her almost lifelong episodes of psychosis lead to years of institutionalism and medication and a belief that she was incapable of independent living.

A chance encounter in a boarding house made her realise that her biggest ally was herself and that change could come from within. She lived in the house because Kingseat had closed and its patients were sent out into a not very supportive world.

One day a visitor told Debra he restored cars. He said that in regards to restoration “all that’s needed is a bit of care and it will work”.

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Debra fell to thinking about this process, then had a long conversation with him about helping her to restore her life as effectively as he restored his cars. Although he wondered just where they would start on this journey, he promised Debra he would help and Debra has rarely looked back.

She feels a huge responsibility in her work to those who never got to leave Kingseat, the type of facility she is adamant there is no longer any place for. She owes them so much, she says, they contributed so much to her life. She calls them the remnants of the Divine and credits them with her own recovery - recovery to her meaning “having a life worth living, the life you would choose for yourself; it’s about striving for it, not about expecting the least”.

It’s been a courageous journey, but in the rare position of uniting academia with community service provision she now has dual roles as a professional teaching fellow at the University of Auckland and a consumer educator through the ADHB.

She was consumer consultant to Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) for five years, providing consumer advisory services. Now she is employed by ADHB as a Project Manager for the psychological interventions for enduring mental illness project, described as a unique and innovative position.

Debra works in the clinical setting leading the development of psychological strategies for positive symptoms of psychosis and is the first non-clinician to do so. She is also a senior tutor with The University of Auckland’s Centre for Mental Health Research and Policy Development and current Chairperson for ISPS New Zealand.

Debra will find out if she has won an Attitude Award at a black-tie gala on November 29 at Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds.

There are eight categories in the 2016 Attitude Awards, with some new awards this year: Youth Spirit, Making a Difference, Emerging Athlete, Sporting Spirit, Spirit of Attitude, Artistic Achievement, Entrepreneur and Employer Award. The overall winner of the Attitude ACC Supreme Award is selected from the category winners and a People’s Choice winner and Hall of Fame inductee are also announced at the awards.

Dan Buckingham, Chair of the Attitude Trust, says: “I take my hat off to the judges for managing to narrow down the record number of nominations we had to just 24 finalists, across the 8 categories. Now I’m looking forward to getting to know the finalists as we travel around the country filming with them and sharing their stories.

“Thank you to our fantastic family of sponsors who have allowed us to once again shine a light on some great Kiwis living with disabilities doing some phenomenal things.”

Dan encourages everyone to visit in early November to see short films of the finalists and to vote for the person most deserving of the ‘People’s Choice Award’.

The Making a Difference Award is proudly sponsored by Ministry of Health. Jill Lane, Director, Service Commissioning at the Ministry of Health says the Ministry is pleased to once again sponsor the Attitude Awards.

"We are very impressed with the contribution made by the three nominees for this year’s Making a Difference award. These nominees can be proud of the difference they are making in the lives of people with a disability in their very diverse ways."

The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) returns as the principal sponsor of the 2016 Attitude Awards. Other sponsors supporting the awards are: Lion Foundation, Drake Medox, Barfoot & Thompson, Westpac, KPMG, Manawanui InCharge, Ricoh, HealthCare NZ, Air New Zealand and NZ on Air.

ACC Chief Executive Scott Pickering says ACC is proud to be principal sponsor of the Attitude Awards for the ninth year, as well as sponsor of the Supreme Award and the Employer Award categories.

“The Attitude Awards are important because they remind us that everyone benefits when we all look at what we can do, rather than what we can’t,” Mr Pickering said. “This year’s finalists have an impressive list of achievements and ACC is delighted to acknowledge New Zealanders who live life to the fullest, achieve their goals and are role models in our communities.”

For tickets to the Attitude Awards gala evening on November 29 contact Terri Cavanagh at or phone 09 378 1565.

For the latest on the Awards and the Attitude TV programme:
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