As a young woman, Mary O’Hagan spent five years in and out of psychiatric hospitals.
Armed with an old journal from that time, Mary confronts two contrasting accounts of her experience – the one where professionals were so quick to diagnose, and the one that she herself lived, and attempted to make meaning from.
Her own account exists within the pages of her journal, and on the wall of an empty psychiatric ward where she documented the challenges imposed by the experts, who reduced her to a mere illness.
Since that time Mary has gone on to be:
- an initiator of the service user movement in New Zealand
- the first chair of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry
- an advisor to the United Nations and World Health Organization
- a Mental Health Commissioner for New Zealand.
Watch Mary's story
The film, and Mary’s story, are powerful reminders of the importance of listening to what a person who has been diagnosed with mental illness has to say, and respect for their own views and wishes.
Mary observes in the film that if she’d told her psychiatrists that she aspired to the exceptional career that she has actually gone on to achieve, they would have responded by upping her anti-psychotic drugs.
She was told that she had an ongoing disability – and to lower her horizons.
How we can help
It can be hard if you are on your own to speak up, and to take up your rights to have your preferences respected. Our advocates can be 'on your side' to support you to have your say.
If you are in hospital and can’t access a phone, ask a staff member or support person to get in touch with us on your behalf.
Reviewed 27 August 2023