Tracy 2

Tracy's Story

Tracy Boon was never meant to be here. After avoiding mental health placements throughout her Occupational Therapy training, she planned to spend a year working in mental health before heading on her OE. That was in 2002.

"I didn't think mental health would be an area I would feel comfortable with or connect with, but it's been nearly 20 years and I'm still here.  It's just such a privilege to work alongside people who experience mental health difficulties and to be part of their journey."

Tracy Boon is an Allied Health Consultant working in the Child, Adolescent and Family (CAF) Service at the Canterbury District Health Board. As well her clinical work, she provides a leadership voice for around 70 allied health professionals working in the service such as social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, dietitians, and speech-language specialists.

"There's a whole lot more to our outpatient mental health service than what you might expect. We have significantly more therapy-based approaches than you might see in other areas of mental health and as a result, we have a huge variety of skills within our team."

And those skills are desperately needed by our young people.

"The demand just keeps increasing and there's a real shift to the more severe end of the spectrum – children and young people who are just finding life incredibly challenging and are struggling to find a way out of that.

"Our Clinicians used to have caseloads with one or two young people with complex needs – now it's almost every young person we see. These are children and young people who need a real wrap-around, team approach in terms of wellness, safety, and risk."


And this wrap-around care our mental health teams provide takes place in a former adult inpatient unit, which is now in a state of disrepair. Tracy says the facilities make it harder to develop a rapport with the young people they’re seeing.

"Often the relationship starts on a wiggly base because we're saying 'sorry, the paint's peeling off the wall' or 'sorry, the room is so dark and cramped'. There's an element of apologising for simply being here and that doesn't start you off well for an engagement relationship.

"The building is drab, a bit scary and it feels like you're walking into the unknown. We have to work differently to manage the facilities we're in and the fact our service is spread over three sites.”

Despite these challenges, they do all they can to make it better.

"We'll put a decal on a wall to cover the paint that's fallen off or leave Christmas decorations up to add colour and a sense of fun. Our facility is so far from ideal it's off the charts, but we're here because we love the work we do supporting children, young people, and their families. So while the environment is incredibly frustrating our team is amazing at just getting on with it and making it work."

Tracy says a new, fit-for-purpose facility will be a game-changer. Top of her wish-list for the new facility?  Space. Light. Easy access to outdoors. Safety.

"We're just holding on to hope right now. A new facility will make things so much easier. It will allow us to do what we're trained to do instead of wasting time trying to put band-aids on the physical environment.

"The fact that you're not going to have a pre-check a therapy room to make sure there hasn't been a leak, even that will be huge."

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