Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 6. 1967.

Dr. Geiringer favours jail over Porirua

Dr. Geiringer favours jail over Porirua

"I Would rather be labelled criminal and put in jail than labelled mentally ill and put in Porirua," said Dr. Erich Geiringer, at a seminar on New Zealand's mental health facilities, held recently at Victoria.

The seminar was organised by Te Rangatahi, as a means of promoting their campaign to have mental health facilities in New Zealand improved. The panel consisted of two speakers, Dr. Geiringer, a well - known Wellington doctor, and Mr. J. Share, a lecturer in the VUW Education Department. Mr. Peter Blizard, a lecturer in the VUW Psychology Department chaired the meeting.

It was agreed by all speakers that mental health facilities in New Zealand were fax from ideal—Mr. Blizard claimed that conditions at Porirua, of which we have been hearing for a number of years, were "only the tip of the iceberg." For at least 20 years there have been "periodic campaigns, sensationalism, but little has been done."

The consensus of opinion at the forum was that more than this was needed But ideas on what should be done differed substantially.

Dr. Geiringer approached the problem as a matter of "re-examining basic assumptions." "The humanitarian approach doesn't wash when it comes to the hard facts of life." he said. "The weakest and most defenceless always go to the wall, and we take money from the weakest when we are short."

On the basis of this, he adcovated a different approach —"not to Christian charity or brotherhood. but through selfishness—the business approach." He showed that the way our mental health services are run now is bad business. "We don't need more money; we are wasting it by inefficiency."

"Our ways of treatment are old-fashioned, evolved in the nineteenth century," he said. "We have since invented shortcuts, but if modern methods were used we could save. We spend £8 million at the moment, but many cases need never go to hospital."

He told the audience that most of the people entering New Zealand mental hospitals come out again in one to three months, and most psychiatrists agree that anyone discharged within 12 weeks need never have gone in. Mr. Share later enlarged on this point by saying that there is a 57 percent [unclear: turnover] of patients Within three months, and in a year an 87 per cent turnover.

Dr. Geiringer therefore claimed that given the right [unclear: per] facilities, in the from clinics In all towns, we could shrink our mental [unclear: ospital] to 30-40 per cent of their present size and cost. "We could build up a pre-[unclear: ven] system, which would cost less." he said.

According to Dr. Geiringer. the [unclear: as] why we have this [unclear: out] system in mental health is that the system of checks and balances by which we progress has broken down in the field of psychiatric medicine. H blamed this on the secrecy oath—"public servants are in the know, but by the secrecy oath are not allowed to disclose what they learn in the course of their work." Moreover, inmates are not believed if they claim illtreatment. because of the fact that they are mentallyill.

"We must liberate the system into the mainstream, so that the checks and balances come back into operation. The rest will follow said Dr. Geiringer. "We mast fight to bring psychiatric services back into New Zealand society. Don't abolish the Mental Hygiene Division, but be more modest —abolish the secrecy oath for employees of the Mental Health Division."

Mr. Share agreed substantially with Dr. Geiringer, He emphasised the urgency of the problem.

Of the 65.000 children born this year in New Zealand, he said, three per cent or 2000 children will never reach 12-year-old intellect, and 0.1 per cent, 65. if they survive, will be severely retarded and unable to satisfy their own immediate needs.

Mr. Share criticised New Zealand's lack of training institutions. "We have no formal training programme, we have hit on workshops, pressure cooker courses."

He suggested that university departments could help— they have the knowledge, insight and independence, but they have kept clear of controversy.

The speeches were followed by a fiery question-and-answer session. One outstanding point brought out by Mr. Blizard was the proportion of untrained staff in our mental hospitals. Up to August 1966, 75 per cent of the full-time female staff, and 40 per cent of the full-time male staff, were either untrained or in training. Only 25 per cent of the full-time professional medical staff had the appropriate training.

Another fact revealed was that the average inmate of one of New Zealand's mental hospitals gets medical attention for an average of two minutes per day or 4id worth. "Nothing for nothing."

The suggestion that a Royal Commission might be set up to investigate the problem was greeted by Dr. Geiringer as "The last thing in the world we want." and by Mr. Blizard as "Just a way politicians get rid of an unpalatable problem."

It was proposed that visitors be allowed to look around mental hospitals and see for themselves. Dr. Geiringer pointed out "They will have only a static picture, of little value. . . Only professionals can give the right facts."