As New Zealand wakes up to the enormity of the mental health issue, more and more of us are finding the will to tell our stories.
It started with celebrities coming forward to begin the process of raising awareness around an issue likely to affect one in five of us by the age of 18.
As royal princes, rugby heroes and music icons stepped up to start the conversation, ordinary New Zealanders started finding their voice too.
"YOU JUST HAVE TO MEET THE PEOPLE" is the result of a three week diversity reporting project undertaken by Whitireia Journalism students.
This multi-media, interactive long read looks to confront the elephants in the room:
STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION.
Putting people at the heart of the story, the seven-person news team talked to those affected, the carers, and the people with the power to put it right.
He tangata, He tangata, He tangata. He aha te mea nui o te ao. The most important thing, it's the people.
Photo right: Courtney Day. Artist Natasha George.
THE SANITISING OF THE MT VIEW LUNATIC ASYLUM - AN HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF OUR MENTAL HEALTH JOURNEY
Wellington’s extravagant Government House stands on the site where Mt View “Lunatic Asylum” once was.
The contrast between the current grand buildings and what once stood there is striking.
The main buildings of the asylum were located on what now is the front lawn of Government House, next to a pole proudly flying the New Zealand flag.
The asylum held patients with a range of mental illnesses and disabilities, many of which visitors centre coordinator Heather Mills says would not be cause for institutionalisation today.
Not much of Mt View still stands, a building now used for visitors centre offices and the “Convicts Wall”, as well as some brick pathways leading to the tennis court.
The wall was made from brick constructed by convicts at Mt Cook Prison, and the arrow shaped mark of the prisoners work is still visible on the bricks today.
Heather says during the asylums life attitudes towards mental illness were vastly different to how they are today.
People were more willing to commit people with manageable mental illnesses to psychiatric institutions, such as people suffering from alcoholism, PTSD, and learning disabilities.
This was due to huge stigmatisation and fear of unknown from the general public, something that has improved but still exists today.
The planning and construction of Mt View reflected small moves towards acceptance of mental illness compared to older institutions.
The asylum implemented fresh air, exercise and useful occupation as an aid for mental health.
This change showed a transition in the stigma around psychiatric patients in the late 1800’s as people began to see mental illness less as a scary, incurable disease, and more as a treatable condition.
Despite boasting slightly more modern treatments than New Zealand’s original mental health facilities, asylums in the 1800’s including Mt View were not known for scientific practices.
Dr T Gray, a British-trained psychiatrist said his experience of New Zealand asylums in the early 20th century was an “almost complete divorcement of psychiatry from general medicine”, according to Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
FIGHTING STIGMA WITH PAINT AND BRUSH
Vincents art workshop is a place of acceptance where anyone can find their voice through artistic expression.
Artist Jack Polly was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 21.
He has faced the stigma of people saying he is stupid or crazy.
He says Vincents makes him feel strong, and he can just be himself.
INNER CITY GARDEN WORKS ITS MAGIC
Wellington’s Compassion Soup Kitchen opened it’s urban Te Mara (garden) earlier this year hoping to create a green oasis among the concrete for guests to work in and eat from.
Using outdoor activity to elevate the mental health of their regular guests is not a new concept.
Numerous studies have shown that doing meaningful work, being in direct sunlight, and being around nature have calming effects and improve mental health.
Volunteer gardener Duncan Macgregor says working in the garden also helps his mental health through the sense of community he gets from being around people and working with others.
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection, ” Duncan says, and he has found connection through volunteering in the garden and kitchen.
Duncan says stigma around mental illness is visible throughout society, and most people have preconceived ideas about people who have mental illnesses, particularly conditions such as schizophrenia and substance abuse issues.
“The mental illness is certainly not the sum of the person.
“Some people’s perceptions of it are pretty ignorant perceptions in my mind.”
He says working towards becoming more community minded is a great step towards breaking the stigma around mental illness.
UNLOADING AT THE BARBER'S SHOP
Kiwi men are famous at keeping their emotions to themselves but it’s a different story at the barbers shop. Like hairdressers and taxi drivers they hear it all.
Barbering tutor at Te Auaha campus, Daimon Johnson worked in a previous life as a barber in London’s famous Cut Throat Barber shop.
Daimon says in the barber’s chair things are different, people tend to trust you when there’s a blade to their neck.
He says barbers will always be dealing in strangers lives and the challenge for him is trying to teach his students the line between being professional and being a friend.
Story and photo: Jayden Tamarua
WHERE DO YOU GO TO MY LOVELY?
We all have that happy place where we find peace and feel safe.
COURTNEY DAY photographed a small group of friends and colleagues in the places they say are good for their mental wellbeing.
One likes to climb walls for fun, another paints. Cooking, playing a guitar, walking in the hills with a dog are all things that take others far away from the mental distress that visits them from time to time.
Natasha George (guitar player and painter) says regardless of whether you are aware of it, there are constantly things affecting your mental health.
She says having a creative outlet is crucial to helping her mental health.
“It’s safe. It’s my visual record of how my mind is going.”
Created with images by rawpixel - "untitled image" • Marvin Meyer - "untitled image"