Nikau House ‘in­valu­able’

Nelson Mail - - Front Page - Men­tal health Sa­man­tha Gee sa­man­tha.gee@stuff.co.nz

At her low­est point, Tina Lane had lost her job, her home and was liv­ing on the streets bat­tling ‘‘de­bil­i­tat­ing de­pres­sion’’.

Sev­eral years on, the Nel­son wo­man is liv­ing a ‘‘happy and in­de­pen­dent life’’ and cred­its Nikau House as be­ing the first men­tal health ser­vice to nur­ture her back to well­be­ing.

The cen­tre is fac­ing clo­sure un­der a Nel­son Marl­bor­ough Health pro­posal to close the long­stand­ing men­tal health fa­cil­ity.

As a nurse, Lane spent 25 years work­ing in hos­pi­tals in New Zealand and over­seas. Dur­ing that time, she hid her de­pres­sion in or­der to func­tion at a high level.

But when she turned 40, things be­gan to fall apart. She was ad­mit­ted to a men­tal health unit in Waikato – a ‘‘ter­ri­fy­ing and iso­lat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence’’.

Due to the sever­ity of her de­pres­sion and an at­tempt to take her life, Lane was given elec­tro­con­vul­sive ther­apy as part of her treat­ment. When she left the unit after sev­eral weeks, she said there was lit­tle after-care.

‘‘Ev­ery time I tried to start anew and get my life back on track, I’d be hit with an­other de­bil­i­tat­ing de­pres­sion. I felt crip­pled by it.’’

She cy­cled through a num­ber of men­tal health ser­vices, where she re­ceived frag­mented care.

‘‘It was not un­com­mon for me to leave a men­tal health unit only to find my­self com­pletely alone and try­ing to sort things out for my­self.

‘‘In my re­duced men­tal ca­pac­ity this was very dif­fi­cult and much to my distress, I be­came part of the re­volv­ing-door phe­nom­e­non so preva­lent in men­tal health ser­vices.’’

It was the be­gin­ning of an itin­er­ant life­style which saw her end up liv­ing on the streets in Tau­ranga.

‘‘Quite sim­ply, I was a mess.’’ Mov­ing to Nel­son, where Nikau House is based, turned out to be a ‘‘happy ac­ci­dent’’.

She was re­luc­tant to en­gage with the ser­vice, hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fer­ent men­tal health ser­vices over the years with lit­tle suc­cess.

‘‘De­spite my ini­tial ret­i­cence, how­ever, I was nur­tured back to a state of men­tal and phys­i­cal well­be­ing by the staff.’’

Lane had found a ‘‘sec­ond fam­ily’’ in the seven years she had been at Nikau House, which was im­por­tant as her own fam­ily live in the North Is­land and over­seas.

She said its link to Nel­son Hos­pi­tal and a num­ber of com­mu­nity-based ser­vices meant it pro­vided com­plete care.

‘‘They have a holis­tic, re­cov­ery-based ap­proach that I have never ex­pe­ri­enced in any other men­tal health ser­vice.’’

She said the com­mu­nity men­tal health fa­cil­ity was an ‘‘ir­re­place­able gem’’.

It pro­vided ‘‘top of the cliff’’ preven­tion in­stead of be­ing an am­bu­lance at the bot­tom of the cliff and was a cru­cial in­ter­face be­tween pri­mary and sec­ondary ser­vices.

Lane said the sup­port of Nikau was ‘‘in­valu­able’’ in en­abling her to get her life back on track. She now works as a duty man­ager at a Nel­son res­tau­rant, and is liv­ing an in­de­pen­dent and happy life.

While she re­mained well and no longer needed the level of sup­port she once did, Lane felt safe in the knowl­edge that Nikau was there for her, should she need it.

‘‘I feel very strongly about Nikau House . . . get­ting rid of it isn’t im­prov­ing ser­vices, it is a back­wards step.’’

123RF

Nel­son wo­man Tina Lane says with the help of Nikau House, she got her life back on track. File photo, posed by model.

MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF

Nikau House sup­port­ers at a protest on the Church Steps op­pos­ing the pro­posed clo­sure of the com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity.

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