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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, No. 24. October 1, 1968

Better deal for mentally ill

Better deal for mentally ill

New Zealanders' attitudes towards the mentally ill appear to be improving.

This is the opinion of Mr P. J. Blizard (right), a lecturer in psychology at Victoria University.

He was addressing the monthly meeting of the social sciences section of the Royal Society on the subject "community attitudes towards the mentally ill in New Zealand".

Psychiatric methods have now improved to the extent that virtually all admitted patients are discharged within a relatively short time.

"Any further advance," Mr Blizard said, "now depends largely on the attitudes of the community towards mental illness, towards mental hospital patients and towards psychiatry itself.

"Thus, establishing what those attitudes are is of the utmost importance in the field today."

To that end, his research had been directed toward replicating studies made overseas during the last ten years as nothing of this nature had ever been done in New Zealand. Mr Blizard said.

He then gave details of his research methodology and examples of common examples to his questions.

His results showed that in spite of there being no mental health education programme New Zealanders showed a capacity to recognise mental illness to the same high extent as had been shown recently overseas.

Two disquieting results had appeared however; these were in areas of considered "seriousness" of particular symptoms, and the other about casual beliefs appearing.

It appeared behaviour was only regarded as "serious" if "it could not be cured, or if there were some indication of violence in the actions."

These were two rather unfortunate assumptions, Mr Blizard said.

Over one third of the sample also attributed alcoholism to "lack of will power"—thus carrying the additional inference that the control of drinking was within the control of the individual.

"Most diagnosticians." Mr Blizard said, "would disagree with this view."

Mr Blizard said he had sufficient evidence to conclude that mental illness in general was no longer a taboo or undiscussed subject.

Many of the people interviewed had exhibited a great desire for expert information.

Many of the outmoded beliefs about the nature and causation of mental illness were no longer held, he said.