Anne Helm, from Wellington, received an Award for Exceptional Contribution to Mental Health Service in Australia or New Zealand at The Mental Health Services Conference of Australia and New Zealand (TheMHS) in Melbourne on 21 August 2013.
This Award was given “in recognition of outstanding courage and determination, and powerful advocacy for truth and dignity so that mental health services can move forward with humanity, social justice and effectiveness”.
At the age of nineteen, while training as an opera singer, Anne had her first experience as an inpatient at a psychiatric hospital. Anne has used her experiences within mental health services to carve out her career as a consumer consultant, educator and activist.
Anne was a panel member of the Confidential Forum for Former Inpatients of Psychiatric Hospitals established by the Government, and advocates for formal acknowledgement of the Forum report, Te Aiotanga , and for an apology to be given to former patients to enable learning and healing.
“The physical, emotional, and sexual abuses need national acknowledgement. Everyone in our community needs to know what happened, acknowledge it and learn from it”, says Anne.
The practice of seclusion, leaving a distressed or agitated person locked in a bare room, was described as traumatic by many who told their stories at the Confidential Forum. Locally and nationally there is a goal to eliminate the practice of seclusion in mental health services. Anne wants a date to be set as a target for achieving this goal. Anne appears in an educational video “Opening Doors” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Cgmw_hNLGck) in which people who have been secluded, and nurses talk about the harm caused by the practice.
Anne says, “Seclusion leaves a person abandoned; it complicates the already fragmented state that one goes into the acute [psychiatric] unit with.”
Anne took her message of healing and learning from the past to the Human Rights Commission’s Diversity Forum in August, and spoke alongside members of the disability community fighting for acknowledgement of people with intellectual disabilities who experienced ill-treatment in institutions.
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