November 06, 2013
Bias adding to high Maori mental health toll
A contributor to a new book on 21 years of the Mental Health Act says there are indications Maori are encountering bias in the application of the law.
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Hinemoa Elder says Maori are over-represented in mental health statistics, especially in the use of community treatment orders.
They may be misdiagnosed because of different cultural ideas about mental illness, and they are also affected by judgments by health professional on whether they are a danger to themselves and others, or whether they can look after themselves.
Maori are much more likely to be secluded in hospital, and they are given larger amounts of anti psychotic medicine than others.
"We’re just wondering whether the disproportionate use of the act for Maori is appropriate because maybe Maori people were presentng with more complex presentation or is this disproportionate use of the act pathologising of a Maori experience, or is it a mixture of both," Dr Elder says.
New Zealand’s Mental Health Act in Practice is published by Victoria University Press.
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