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“Recovery takes time, trust and consistency,  but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me -I’ve lived it.“ ~ David Parker JP, Trustee Hear4U

Why Me You Ask?

Why, because of my experience with the mental Health system, in my time of need. This is my personal story about how the Mental Health System failed me in my time of need.

It’s not about criticising the magnificent staff in the system, doing their best but within an inadequate facility and lack of investment for the user, despite the promises from the last Government for mental health in NZ.

For those who don’t know me, I am David Parker, father of three beautiful daughters, a justice of the peace, a HEAR4U Trustee, and owner of Evans Funeral Services Gisborne.

In August 2016, at 1.30 pm I walked out the back door of my family home and attempted to take my life.

Over the weeks leading up to my attempt, my family were there, my friends and work colleagues were all there and witnessed my mental state declining. There were no drugs involved. No alcohol. No trauma. It was professional burnout. I couldn’t shut the red X box of a computer screen constantly in my brain, only the minus button was available, I used that along to park the issues but I didn’t resolve them. I stopped exercising, which I have done all my life. I wasn’t sleeping and this was my recipe for disaster.

While going through my disaster, there was no door like HEAR4U that was open, and willing to help based on what I needed. There was only the PAT (Psychiatric Assessment Teams) who were  strangers that came into my home to assess if I was crazy - or not.  There was the Mental Health Ward (Ward 11) which was the last option and I saw this place as a threat. I was on heavy medication from my doctor. Something I was embarrassed to be on.

When I attempted to take my life, I was taken by ambulance to A&E, straight to theatre with shocked nursing, police and emergency teams who all new me well through my work. My saving grace was I lived close to the hospital. I was guarded all night in ICU by a stranger and thought I was going to jail. And that’s when the paranoia started.

The next day I was taken into a cold room and interviewed like a criminal; like I had committed a crime by trying to take my life.  Despite all requests to stay close to my family and friends, it was suggested I be sent out of Gisborne to a special unit. This suggestion we challenged. I was able to stay in Gisborne at Ward 11 and thank goodness because my family, friends and grounding connections of Tairāwhiti are what helped pull me through. After my interview, I was taken to a room in a wheelchair and placed on a bed.
The sheets were clean, but the walls had holes in them, faeces were in the shower, and it smelt. I had a stranger guarding my room in the corridor, watching my every move including when I went to the toilet.
Nothing was explained to me, except, “here take these pills”.

I remember being allowed to leave my room after approx. 3 days, and going to a common room with other patients to watch television. The people surrounding me were drug users, and people with no personal hygiene. Sometimes, one of the psychiatric nurses took me out for a walk around the hospital grounds. This was one of the only times I got to get out of that sterile, filthy environment that was there to support my recovery. My recovery was about medication and talking to transient Psychiatrists.  I told them what they wanted to hear so I could get out of Ward 11.

The support from my family, friends and work colleagues are what helped pull me through. I was in Ward 11 for 1 month before I was discharged with ONLY medication to support my continued recovery. I was back 3 months later.

The people who saved me and got me where I am today, was ONE NURSE, my family, my friends and the community. Many people said, “If Stiff Parker could do this then we are all vulnerable, he has everything going for him.” The stigma attached was immense.
I was dreading the day I would walk back into the Fishing Club, and remember thinking that everyone would be staring and talking about me.  (That was so far away from the truth, in fact it was the opposite and the support was outstanding - I didn’t realise how much I was loved).

Moving forward, I was privileged to become a trustee for Hear4U. I was told in my worst time “you will contribute back one day with what you are going through”. That time is now, and they were right.

I am quietly proud that I was asked submit feedback to support the Mental Health New Ward Build at Gisborne Hospital. I spent hours on this, sadly not even a response to say it was received.

HEAR 4 U is filling all the gaps that were missing that I needed leading up to my disaster, and throughout recovery.

Hear 4 U is providing a practical, purpose-built facility that is open, warm and encompassing of all walks of life regardless of their story or culture. It is providing one or two people as constant healers to walk alongside people through their journeys. The consistency and relationships that was missing through my recovery. They involve families and a whole of community approach, to promote self-worth and moral support from many.

I don’t want anyone to get as low as I did, and HEAR4U is preventing this happing today.

HEAR4U has grown to provide support and advice for others, not just for young men, but for cyclone recovery, women, business owners and support for a connected community.

In conclusion, a great Rugby mentor of mine said to me “you can’t build a house on weak foundations” referring to the Scrum in the game is so important.

The foundation for HEAR4U is the team and the HQ they operate out of.

You are reading this, as you have either reached out to Hear4U or are interested in the organization and its concepts. It is a new modern alternative way to cope with the pressures of life today.

I took the path of a “Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem.”

I trust my experience shared with HEAR4U and my second chance of life, will avoid you, or someone you love,  in making the stupidest decision of your life.

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