Need for more treatment options

Many people said they didn’t have appropriate treatment options. Specifically, people expressed concern about the harmful impact of an over-reliance on medication, in the absence of a range of other treatment options.

The system we have gives very few alternatives to work with, and there are so many alternatives that could be offered.
— From a workers' submission

People working in mental health services expressed frustration that they weren’t able to provide the services that people want and need.

“The service we are providing is not service user focused, not tailored to the needs of individuals, rather it is the service user and their whanau who are "massaged" into the resources we have to hand, resulting in poor treatment options, early discharges, in-complete treatment plans and the inevitability of a quick return to acute hospitalization for many, many individuals.”   

69 (14%) stories focused on issues related to prescribed medication, either expressing frustration that they were not able to choose other forms of treatment, or concern about the negative impacts that some psychiatric medications had on their quality of life, physical and mental health and life expectancy.

“These drugs have so many negative side effects, including killing my community up to twenty five years earlier than the general population, that all the recent research and recommendations say that they should only ever be used for a short term to manage a crisis. If they have been prescribed for any length of time these drugs can be next to impossible to stop taking. I have experienced excruciating withdrawal effects for years as a result of withdrawing from taking neuroleptics, those drugs that are marketed as the ‘antidotes’ to psychosis.”

Similar concerns were expressed by people who work in mental health services.

"Every week I  get calls and emails from people desperately wanting help but wanting to try therapies or treatments that don't involve medication. They're told that by not accepting drug therapy they are "not bad enough" to enter the mental health system. Many of these people end up in crisis further down the track. If we could only offer funded choices in early intervention we wouldn't have to wait for crisis intervention. The irony is it would be a lot cheaper and less taking on overstretched inpatient beds and emergency services.”

What people say they want is a genuine choice of treatment. In order for that to be possible, a wider range of treatments needed to be publicly funded and available, including a full range of talking therapies, and peer support.

“We need a system that is preventative, one that works with people to support them as and when bad things happen. And we need multiple ways a person can be supported so that people can choose the options that work for them. When we have this we will be growing the wellbeing of everyone in our communities, and giving everyone the opportunity to make the choices they need to make in order to live their best lives.”

Some people said what they really wanted was simply someone who could take the time to listen, and many people said that they wanted mental health professionals to listen to them with

“It’s actually pretty simple. Talk less, listen more. Don’t listen to answer—listen to understand. You have two ears and one mouth—even your own physical body since birth has afforded you a clue that shutting up rather than talking might just be more beneficial.”