Marlborough MS support group aims to tackle isolation

The face of MS in Marlborough David Robinson said loss of mobility meant some people with MS were effectively housebound, which could lead to mental health issues.

Andy Brew / Stuff

The face of MS in Marlborough David Robinson said loss of mobility meant some people with MS were effectively housebound, which could lead to mental health issues.

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid, New Zealand’s Multiple Sclerosis MS Awareness Week was relaunched this week.

The goal is to raise enough money to retain dedicated staff who support sufferers and their whānau with day-to-day and long-term needs.

As part of Awareness Week, multiple sclerosis (MS) societies across the country are hosting special fundraising events. Marlborough MS and Parkinson’s Society hosted a dinner and auction night at the Bamboo Garden Restaurant on Tuesday evening.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves, causing nerve damage that disrupts communication between the brain and the body. MS can cause many different symptoms, including loss of vision, pain, fatigue, and impaired coordination.

Marlborough MS and Parkinson’s Society secretary Barbara Hutchinson said there were around 130 Marlburians with the disease, and it was good to be able to raise funds and awareness for the cause again.

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“For the past few years, fundraising has been impacted by the Covid, like everything else. In the past we did it the old fashioned way with collections around the corner, standing in the street waving our boxes, but that all happened with Covid, so this is the first year we’ve been of back among the public,” she said.

“All of our organizations across New Zealand run activities, raise awareness about MS and the disease and fundraise so that we can continue to employ people to work with and provide support to both the person with the disease and their supporting families. .

“So we organize all kinds of activities, including exercise classes, lunches, places where partners can meet, talk and help share the burden of caring for someone with MS,” she said.

One of those heavily involved in supporting the Marlborough MS and Parkinson’s Society is David Robinson, Blenheim resident and keen gardener, who was diagnosed with the disease 18 years ago.

Robinson said the Marlborough MS and Parkinson's Society would work to tackle the isolation of its members.

Andy Brew / Stuff

Robinson said the Marlborough MS and Parkinson’s Society would work to tackle the isolation of its members.

Robinson, who has secondary progressive MS (SPMS), said one of the society’s main goals this year will be to tackle the loneliness and isolation of people living with the condition.

“Being part of the society helps to meet other people with MS, and you can talk about your condition, talk about what works for you and what doesn’t, there are all these little things, there has a lot of tips to pass on really, so that was really helpful.

“It’s just about having a group of people you can talk to. It can get quite difficult at times, but luckily I have a very strong support group,” he said.

Robinson said the loss of mobility and resulting isolation was not conducive to people’s mental health.

Members of the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons Society Marlborough Inc during the annual National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week.  Sue Mears, left, Noeleen Thomson, Ruth Newman, Brenda Green, Sandra McLachlan, Judith Allen and Lois Webb.

Andy Brew / Stuff

Members of the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons Society Marlborough Inc during the annual National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. Sue Mears, left, Noeleen Thomson, Ruth Newman, Brenda Green, Sandra McLachlan, Judith Allen and Lois Webb.

“We are going to strengthen support for the carer and we are also trying to develop the social side. Being stuck at home is as much a mental problem as it is a physical one.

“I’m not really housebound, but there are quite a few who are, and that can’t be good for their mental health. As a society, we have to fix this problem.

“Trying to reach people who are housebound can be very difficult, but we have to keep trying,” Robinson said.

Another member of the society is Sue Mears who cares for her husband with MS.

“We are a group of helpers and we offer each other moral support. People really support each other. It’s like joining a club,” she said.

National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week runs from September 12-18, and anyone wishing to get involved or donate to the cause can visit http://www.msnz.org.nz for more information .

Virginia S. Braud