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'I had to save money first' - Seeking mental health help when not 'in crisis'


"I knew something wasn’t right. I knew I wasn't 100 per cent. But it was only through seeing other people talking about it (mental health) openly and honestly that gave me permission to go, 'that is kind of what I'm experiencing right now and so, I think maybe this might be that thing that I don’t really want to call it - which is depression’."

In July last year 38-year-old Barbara Horrell faced up to her depression and recognised that she was one of the 20 per cent of New Zealanders who experience mental distress every year. What followed was a frustrating journey to find help and support that resonated with her, that she could afford and access while living in Auckland.

"We’re very good at catching people who are in crisis at the bottom of the cliff. But there's a whole lot of people who are just hovering near the edge of the cliff up top, who aren’t in crisis but they’re not living their best lives either."

A background in holistic wellbeing and meditation meant that medication wasn’t going to suit Barbara – and that led her to look for private treatment. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government’s 2018 inquiry into mental health and addiction found that 50 to 80 per cent of New Zealanders experience “mental distress or addiction challenges” at some point in their lives, while each year one in five people experience “mental illness or significant mental distress”.

'I felt very alone, very disconnected, and I was seeking and searching for connection from others, and I just seemed to always feel like I was coming up short," Barbara told 1 NEWS.

While searching for help she attended a mental health event where the speaker shared her own journey through depression, and experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Source: TVNZ

"I was really grateful that she did that, it's hard to talk about or even admit that I've experienced thoughts like that when I was at my lowest. And it's only because the pain and the suffering that I was experiencing at that moment was so extreme, that it seemed like the only way to stop experiencing that, because it felt like, in the moment, that it would never end."

Barbara says it’s thanks to her background in meditation that she was able to address these painful thoughts and know that they weren’t really her.

"Those thoughts aren’t me, and they’re not permanent, and it doesn’t mean that I have to take action on them – but they are quite scary and frightening. I think for someone who maybe isn’t a meditation teacher to experience that must be really, really scary. But just because you’re thinking those thoughts it doesn’t mean that’s maybe what you want, or that you have to take action on those thoughts."

When Barbara took the hard step to share her depression with the people she trusted the most, she discovered she wasn’t the only one facing difficult moments.

"I found that really beautiful, in being vulnerable enough to share myself with someone it gave them permission to be vulnerable back."

Sharing her depression turned into a 'beautiful moment' for Barbara Horrell as people responded with their own mental health challenges. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government’s 2019 Budget promised a $1.9 billion boost for mental health and addiction services. Until that promise is realised Kiwis like Barbara, who don’t fit the ‘in crisis’ label are often left struggling to find solutions that work for them.

For Barbara, a background in holistic wellbeing and meditation meant that medication wasn’t going to suit – and that led her to look for private treatment.

"The problem is with that is that it’s not free - at all. You’ve got to be able to privately fund it yourself,” she says, “I had to save money first to then invest in the therapist and specialties that I felt were right for me and that would help me."

More than a year after acknowledging she wanted help, a difficult and frustrating search led her to hypnotherapist Anna Duggan, based in Queenstown. 

"It wasn't like I did this one thing and magically felt better, but I did a few sessions of hypnotherapy and I did the homework that was given to me for that, and things started to feel a little bit better. People started to comment that I seemed a little bit lighter or happier."

Talking about her personal mental health is still hard for Barbara.

"I think it’ll get easier and easier. I’m well up the uphill side of it now.

"But I’ve forced myself recently to talk about my depression, because it feels so uncomfortable. I definitely find it very, very hard, but I figured that the more I practise dong it the easier it gets. And the less scary it gets for me so hopefully the less scary it gets for other people as well."

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A desire for a holistic treatment saw Barbara Horrell paying for private treatment after turning down conventional medication for depression. Source: 1 NEWS