Love, Sexual Abuse, and Mental Health

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Love, sexual abuse, and mental health are the main ingredients of the new book I’m currently working on. In my case, the love of the innocent that fuels survival, the abuse and disregard of some people who don’t hesitate to perpetrate crime on vulnerable people, and a mental health system that fails to deliver.

Our Prime Minister (New Zealand) has taken on Mental Health as one of her main foci and allocated more funding in general and wants more mental health nurses in schools. It’s a noble beginning, but I fear, we will still have the same problems in ten years as we have now. Throwing money at a dead horse is not making it run faster, isn’t it?

In my opinion, the problem is much more a cultural issue than a funding issue. As long as people with mental health problems are treated as second rate citizen by the professionals, nothing much will change. Even though the Recovery Model of mental health service provision (adopted by the NZ government in the late 90s) meant to give people who need these services more self-determination of the treatment they receive and the treatment outcomes, it’s nowadays as good as dead.

I remember when I was a novice therapist, fresh from the holy grail of therapist school, I presented the issues of a client with severe problems to my supervisor. He asked me what outcome I hoped to achieve for this person. Back then I found the question odd. Of course, we’d set course to full recovery and a meaningful, satisfying life. In his opinion, the best outcome would be to keep the person alive and out of prison.

Within a ten minute conversation, he’d made a judgment about another living being, that was so limiting, it didn’t include a successful life, a good career, and loving relationships. He was wrong. In his mind, the person was broken, acting out, being non-compliant to treatment, unable to make changes, unable to think clearly, unable to understand what’s good for them.

I believe treating people in this way is one of the main problems with mental health services. After 25 years of working in the field, I’ve seen it over and over again.

PS: After I retired as a therapist, I thought I was done with mental health. As it turns out, there is a mouthy main character in my new book, (working title: Voices in the treehouse) who is very outspoken about the treatment she receives and the effort it takes to stay sane in an insane environment. She plunged me right into the mental health controversy. Jikes.



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