Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

Mental Health Services - Bradford Speech


28 November 2001

Mental Health services must listen to families
Sue Bradford - Green Party
General Debate - slot 3
Delivered at 3.45pm

Mr Speaker

This week in Invercargill we can see unfolding before us yet another chapter in the sorry history of mental health services in this country.

The Queenstown coroner is currently carrying out the inquest into the death of teacher Mrs Paddy Burton, knifed to death by her son Mark who was formally released from the Southland Hospital mental health unit the day before she was killed.

The court case which found Mark not guilty by reason of insanity has already taken place.

Now I do not want to dwell on the sad details of this case, nor should I, but I bring it to Parliament's attention today because I think what happened on March 31 this year in Queenstown is symptomatic of some of the deep underlying problems facing a mental health community in crisis.

For a start, this is not the only case. In the past ten years we've seen example after example of situations where people who staff our acute units and CAT teams seem to pay little or no attention to what parents and families tell them about their mentally ill family member, with results varying from the merely uncomfortable to the tragic.

And I guess I'll have to admit vested interest here, as almost six years ago to the day I lost my own eldest son Danny to suicide after a sequence of events at the local acute unit which left our family desperate for answers, and for change.

Since then, there's been yet another inquiry - the excellent Mason report; the establishment of the Mental Health Commission; the formation of the strategic Blueprint and extra millions of dollars poured in by the Government.

And yet, what's changed? People are still being discharged from acute units in total disregard for what families like the Burtons tell them. Deaths, both homicides and suicides, are still happening.

Just this month I attended, along with some of my fellow MPs, a large public meeting in Dunedin where all the frustration of unheard voices and lost hopes were voiced by many ordinary parents who can't understand, any more than I can, why more can't be done to change the system now.

It's not a matter of not knowing the answers. We have had numerous inquiries and reports and the ongoing work of the Commission is undoubtedly useful. But when are the solutions going to be applied in practice?

Just to consider a few of them in the short time I have here, I am sure the current Health Minister is aware of the Code of Family Rights which was put together by the Schizophrenia Fellowship. This Code encompasses many of the things families are trying to get across to mental health professionals, DHBs and Government, and includes such things as, 'The family / whanau has the right to be taken seriously when expressing concerns about the person's behaviour.'

Even implementing this one part of the Code in practice could have a profound influence in avoiding some of the human tragedies which continue to happen.

I believe the Code of Family Rights should be operationalised as an integral baseline for all mental health staff dealing with tangata whaiora and their families.

A second key area where change is needed without delay is in the way we treat our mental health nurses. Nurses are at the frontline of the service, and yet they are dealt with abominably, in terms of both pay and training.

For example, the Burton case has highlighted the situation of registered nurse Tina Barlow, who was working at the unit when Mark Burton was first admitted in February, and who cared for him during his stay there. Ms Barlow's only experience at working in the mental health area was six weeks of clinical work, and four weeks of theory during her three year training to be a registered nurse.

This is totally unacceptable. Mental health nursing is not somehow less important or requiring of less ability than nursing those with physical disease or injury. Training for mental health nurses should be upgraded to the kind of levels we see in best practice overseas, not relegated to a minor and meaningless category within the standard three year courses.

Nor should mental health nurses continue to be paid the peanuts they're currently offered. No wonder we have mental health nurses in Christchurch taking industrial action, and no wonder so many of our mental health nurses head off overseas where their skills are valued and they can earn two or three times as much as they do here.

And it's not just about money - it's also about how whether we honour and respect the people who take on one of the hardest jobs there is.

I know money is not unlimited, and that the Government has been trying to make positive changes. However, I think Government, the DHBs, and all involved in the mental health world need to do some serious reprioritisation of resources, and some critical thinking about what could and should be done to make things better, right now - for all our sakes.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines


Earthquake Cluster: Tsunami Threat To Land & Marine Areas

This is a Tsunami Warning for New Zealand coastal areas following the magnitude 8.1 earthquake near KERMADEC ISLANDS REGION.
There is a LAND and MARINE TSUNAMI THREAT. An Emergency Mobile Alert will be issued to the areas under land and marine tsunami threat. Listen to local civil defence authorities and follow any instructions regarding evacuation of your area... More>>


 

Joint Press Release: Dirty PR Exposed In Whale Oil Defamation Trial

Three public health advocates are relieved that their long-standing Whale Oil defamation trial against Cameron Slater, Carrick Graham, Katherine Rich and the Food and Grocery Council has finally concluded and they are pleased that the truth has come out... More>>

ALSO:


Government: Next Stage Of COVID-19 Support For Business And Workers

The Government has confirmed details of COVID-19 support for business and workers following the increased alert levels due to a resurgence of the virus over the weekend... More>>

ALSO:




Government: PHARMAC Review Announced

The Government is following through on an election promise to conduct an independent review into PHARMAC, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister Andrew Little announced today... More>>

ALSO:



Government: Balanced Economic Approach Reflected In Crown Accounts

New Zealand’s economic recovery has again been reflected in the Government’s books, which are in better shape than expected.
The Crown accounts for the seven months to the end of January 2021 were better than forecast in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU)... More>>


Covid-19: Auckland Back To Alert Level Three After One New Community Case Revealed

Auckland will move to alert level three for a week at 6am tomorrow morning after two new Covid-19 community cases announced this evening could not be directly linked to earlier cases, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
The rest of the country will move to level two.... More>>

NZ Initiative: New Report Highlights How Our Housing Crisis Could Worsen If We Don’t Act Now

If New Zealand politicians thought the housing crisis in 2020 was bad, the worst is yet to come, warns a new report by The New Zealand Initiative. In The Need to Build: The demographic drivers of housing demand , Research Assistant Leonard Hong ... More>>

Parliament: Kiwi MPs Among The “Most Educated In The World”

New analysis of MP qualifications reveals New Zealand’s Parliament is one of the most educated and highest qualified in the world, and significantly more educated than Australia’s. The research, by Mark Blackham of BlacklandPR and Geoffrey Miller ... More>>

 
 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels