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'I'm me' and proud of it
Stigma keeps on keeping on
By JUDITH LACY
It'sme: Carroll Grobler has worked in the mental health field for 48 years. She says her hair has always been a badge
of who she is.
Photo: WARWICK SMITH
While mental health care has changed tremendously over Carroll Grobler's career, she says one thing that has
not is the stigma associated with people who are mentally unwell.
''I don't think it will ever change. I would like to think it would but then you have only got to look at people that
say 'not in my backyard'.''
As a community psychiatric nurse, most of Ms Grobler's clients hold down jobs and participate in the community.
When she visits clients' homes she assesses their mental and physical health as well as their environment --
is their home warm and safe? Do they need help with housework? How does the client interact with family living
in the house?
Ms Grobler runs the Clozapine Club. Clozapine is a powerful antipsychotic drug taken by people with
schizophrenia, and its side effects need to be closely monitored. Each month 12 to 16 people will attend the
club and as well as the monitoring and education provided by Ms Grobler, the members support each other.
The suicide of clients can be incredibly painful but Ms Grobler reminds herself they had a choice.
''It's a choice and people are allowed to have choices, selfish as it may seem to people.''
Simple gestures such as offering to go for a walk together or a kind word show acceptance of people who are
When a teenaged Carroll
Grobler decided she
wanted to be a psychiatric
nurse, her mother was not happy.
Oh, but you will be so second
class, dear,'' the registered nurse
and midwife said.
Ms Grobler has felt anything but
in her 48-year career, considering it
a privilege clients let her into their
homes and answer the intimate
questions she needs to ask.
The 67-year-old has worked at
Palmerston North Hospital since
1977 and mental health remains
English born, Ms Grobler was liv-
ing in Nelson when she decided to
return to England to train. She
went by sea and remembers the
cruise ship being escorted through
Cuban waters by a warship.
This was 1963. She trained at
Long Grove Hospital in Epsom,
enjoying its up front'' teaching pro-
It was a time of sustained
migration from the Caribbean. Ms
Grobler remembers having to stand
four steps up a staircase to give tall
Caribbean men their medication --
they would laugh at her lack of
While Long Grove with its high
walls, barbed wire, staff social
amenities and own butcher was in
some ways closeted from the world,
the news of John F Kennedy's
assassination in 1963 hit the staff
Ms Grobler was cutting a
patient's toe nails when she heard.
I can remember thinking that's
not real, that can't happen. You
don't shoot people like that.''
It was meant to be the time of
peace, love and goodwill.
On a ban-the-bomb march with
her cousin, Ms Grobler was arrested
for sitting on my bum and refusing
to move''. She spent the night in a
cell and was put on a good behav-
iour bond for a year. The judge was
lenient, apparently as he felt the
young woman worked in an honour-
Ms Grobler met her husband, an
Afrikaner, at Long Grove and they
had a daughter. She was allowed to
bring her daughter on to the wards
and patients would talk, read and
play with her. The family moved to
South Africa, but after the couple
divorced, Ms Grobler returned to
Nelson with her daughter.
The grandmother of two's hair is
often a talking point with clients.
When she started going grey then
white, Ms Grobler decided to make
a statement and now sports a shock
of pink/purple on her fringe.
It's just another way of saying
this is me and you can like me or
lump me, but you can hardly ignore
me because I am right there'.''
Retirement is not yet on the agenda.
I really don't know what is going
on in the future, but whatever it is
I shall have fun doing it, I am sure,''
I don't think I would swap much
these days, I'm having too much
Have a Rosy
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