The Code of Rights

Mental health services, like all health services in New Zealand, have a Code of Rights that they are supposed to follow. They’re a good idea, because they protect the often-vulnerable mental health (and other health in general, but I’m thinking about mental health, as usual) patients from being treated poorly by mental health workers.

The problem is, they’re sometimes not followed – and when things go wrong, the process for making things right is not clear, and sometimes difficult to follow through with.

My own experience was not good. When I had a problem with the psychiatrist I was assigned to, making a complaint made precisely no difference to my treatment. He did not treat me with respect, he did not communicate with me in an effective manner, and he actively avoided informing me about my choices. So I complained to his supervisor. and it got me nowhere.

The only choice I was given was to go back to the psychiatrist who had treated me badly, with his supervisor in attendance. I had been treated badly enough that I never wanted to see him again, because he made me feel worthless and stupid. I believe that I should have had some sort of option that did not force me to deal with a man who had no respect for me and made me feel an inch tall, but laying a complaint did not give me that.

I could have taken it higher, I suppose, but it would have been the word of a highly qualified employee against a mental health patient – not a battle I see myself winning. My case manager, and the man who took her place while she was on leave, were both intent on convincing me that he really was a good doctor, that he was well-qualified and so on. It made me feel very much like the problem was me.

I was made to feel that my complaint was not really worthwhile, and that I was being the problem by not wanting to see him again. Somehow it was supposed to be different if his boss (who was also my case manager) was in the room – it may have been, I don’t know, but I didn’t want to share his old-coffee-scented air with him ever again.

Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps I should have gone back as I was told to do. However, I feel like I should have the right to say ‘this man was awful’ and have that respected, rather than be told how good he is. I want to be able to have some choices in the system – some people just don’t work together very well, and there should be something in place for when that happens. All I got out of it though was that I should not complain, because it just doesn’t get me anywhere.


One thought on “The Code of Rights

  1. Alison Fursdon

    It is not only mental health professionals who are arrogant. I came across a highly respected doctor in the Older Persons unit who wanted to put me on anti-depressants, just because i was “too bright and engaged” in hospital after my stroke 2 years ago. I told him where he could put his scrip. His parting words were that I would be back by Christmas. I have never been back. Not everyone has the choice that I made though and I feel for you my love.


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