A Levin youth doctor and published poet has released a book of poetry penned specifically to help in the treatment of his patients.
Dr Glenn Colquhoun wrote all the poems that feature in Letters to Young People for some young patients that sought treatment at his Levin practice, with the book due for release any day.
"Most recently I have come to believe that the stories my young people tell me demand some response from my profession. They are a plea to the world of big people to bring some explanation or justice or relief, however naive that might be," he said.
"Not to respond is a defeat in the natural order of things."
Dr Colquhoun had been a writer as long as he had been a doctor. As the Horowhenua Youth Horowhenua Service practice developed, the writing became increasingly more important as an outlet for the things he was seeing and hearing.
"I began writing a few years back now as a way of processing a couple of things that were happening and I found it a really helpful thing to do," he said
"It was really important as a clinician to process what was happening ... it is a project in medicine as much as it is a project in poetry."
He was brutally honest with himself about his role in the lives of young people he treats through the course of a working day, recognising that sometimes the nature of the consultation could be just as important as any medicine he might prescribe.
So much so, he admitted to coming home and having critical thoughts that he could have said this, or should have said that. It might have been to let a patient know he thought they were courageous in coming to him for help, or to voice some encouragement.
Writing down those thoughts gave rise to the poems, which have now become part of the consultation, almost part of the prescription.
He wanted to see if those poems would resonate positively with their subject.
"I called them all back, which was interesting. I said 'I have written you a poem', and there would be stunned silence," he said.
"Most of the time they were quite touched that somebody would look at them in a different light, like an artist. For others it moved the consultation in a different direction.
"A couple were like 'you crazy dude' and probably chucked it in the drawer when they left, but most felt like they had been seen in a different way."
When he suggested to them that their names would be changed in each book, some strongly objected. They felt it was their poem. They wanted to own it, as their own.
Others wanted their names changed. Some were local. Some had since moved on. There were some that didn't want their poems published at all, in which case they were left out of the book entirely.
"When you are looking creatively at something you are looking at it with a sense of compassion, and sense of lightness, and a sense of care. I felt that the more poems I wrote, the more useful it was to me as a doctor in terms of medicine," he said.
"Sometimes actually the connection helps with the diagnosis. It's easier to put a finger on what's going on, especially with youth health."
Dr Colquhoun said primary care medicine was about building relationships over a period of time, as that enabled a long term view and gave a context of somebody's life.
He was privy to some stories shared by young people that he said continue to shock him - every week. While he was a doctor, he was also a human being, and writing helped him to stay human.
"Doctors often go to work and come home and a lot of this stuff doesn't get processed. It just sits there," he said.
"It can be difficult sometimes to listen to young people that have been through an event perpetrated by a big person in their lives.
"For some young people their childhood is parks, swimming pools and icecreams. But others have been through more trying experiences. It's hard to reconcile."
Dr Colquhoun said he was passionate about youth health and cuts his cloth to suit. He can see young people individually or in groups, for two minutes, 10 minutes, or an hour.
"I love working in that field. It's a compelling part of medicine," he said.
"Kids force a lot of honesty out of you. They pick up on any bullshit. You can't hide. They notice it ... they are better for me than I am for them.
"We create an image that we have it all figured out, especially in medicine. As much as it is cutting edge, it's also an ancient art form of two people talking to each other."