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Otty 2

Otty's Story

Otty was an over-achiever. Happy, surrounded by friends, captain of the football and basketball teams, a star student. And then everything fell apart.

“It was about a year after the earthquakes that my anxiety kicked off. I couldn’t switch off at school or at home and I couldn’t sleep. That’s when I was first referred to the Child, Adolescent and Family service,” says Otty.

Otty lived in Kaiapoi and travelled into the city to go to school. She was alternating between a broken home and a broken city. Due to earthquake damage at her school in the city, Otty enrolled at her local school in Kaiapoi.

“I hated it. At school I didn’t want to be away from mum and then I would go home to a broken house with cracks all through it, bits hanging off the ceiling and windows that wouldn’t shut. Mentally looking at those things every day took its toll. My anxiety took control and I stopped going to school completely.”

Otty continued to work with the CAF outpatient team at the Hillmorton and The Princess Margaret Hospital sites.

“It’s not ideal when you’re already feeling a bit, kind of, low and then you go somewhere that’s old, grotty and feels second hand. It’s like people think ‘we’ll just chuck them here ‘cos there’s nowhere else. This will do’. 

“It almost feels like a prison – everything’s very dark and you feel like you’re going to get trapped. It doesn’t fill you with motivation to get better.”

But Otty did want to get better and in 2012 she started at Rangiora High School. She didn’t know things were about to go from bad to worse.

“That’s when all the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) stuff kicked in. I started having panic attacks and couldn’t be away from mum for more than 30 seconds. I stopped going to school again and started going to Health School with a teacher seeing me about twice a week, but I wasn’t making any progress.

“I would spend four to five hours getting ready in the morning because I had these bad OCD rituals, and then the same at night. So that was like, my day.”

Otty’s psychologist suggested Otty be admitted to the inpatient service.

“If she had told me at the beginning I’d be there for six months there was no way I would have gone. It’s not where you want to be when you’re 18. But now I am so thankful I did it. I had anxiety, OCD, PTSD and was depressed but despite that I had a huge motivation to get well – and I did.”



Following her inpatient stay Otty spent six months as an adult outpatient before being discharged.  She then went back to CAF – this time in a paid role as a consumer advisor, working with patients across the inpatient and outpatient services.

“I really enjoyed that role - bridging the gap between patients and management and ensuring the patient voice was heard.”

Through that role Otty gained a greater understanding the challenges the staff at CAF face.

“The staff are amazing. It wasn’t the building or environment that helped me – it was 110% them. Working at CAF made me realise just how difficult their working environment is. The staff don’t feel great about where they are treating patients and it takes its toll on them.”

Today Otty is 24 years old and says she feels 100%. She completed a pre-health paper to get University Entrance (which she missed out on due to her treatment) and ticked off a traditional Kiwi OE, returning home just before COVID hit. Now she is working for Nurse Maude and St John and is aiming to train to become a paramedic.

“I’m so excited about the future and part of that is owning my past and telling my story, to reduce the stigma around mental health and support the young people of the future.

“We need this new community outpatient facility for mental health. It’s wonderful that we have a lovely new emergency department and hospital in town but when you visit the mental health units and see the conditions there, it’s just the worst place. It feels forgotten, but by telling my story and supporting Māia Health Foundation I’m hoping we can change that.”

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