Colleagues of long-serving mental health nurse Lesley Forbes, who is retiring, say she has made an immeasurable contribution to the Central Otago community, but Mrs Forbes says the privilege has been hers.
Mrs Forbes retired from the Dunstan branch of the Central Lakes Community Mental Health Team earlier this month and said she had treasured her career.
“It was always a privilege working with people in their most vulnerable times. It was really rewarding to be able to help people and watch them get well again.”
Mrs Forbes started her nursing career 47 years ago – taking a break to have four children – and went on to help establish the Dunstan service in 1988.
It was hard to quantify her contribution to the service and Central Otago community, Dunstan mental health nurse and relieving manager Rosemary Diehl said.
“She has left an amazing mark. She’ll be missed.”
Ms Diehl said Mrs Forbes was kind, compassionate, empathetic, generous, obliging, “beautifully mannered” and considerate.
“She saw the best in everybody, and she was relentlessly positive. She went above and beyond for the needs of her clients and their families and was always the first to volunteer, being happy to help, even when she was busy.”
Her colleague, Anne Gosnell, said Mrs Forbes had worked hard to build the Dunstan service “from a small beginning to the team it is today”.
She was known for her dedication and energy, attending countless callouts, often in the middle of the night.
During one memorable night-time callout, Mrs Forbes went to help someone in a rural district and they “took off on horseback”, so Mrs Forbes ran across a paddock in her high heels, grabbed a horse, too, and chased after him on horseback, finding and helping him.
manager of the Dunstan unit for 16 years but later moved to part-time nursing work to provide some balance for her family and personal life, said she hoped she had helped and empowered people through her work with the Dunstan mental health unit.
She said she would like to see an increase in funding so more staff could be taken on to help the Central Otago service as demand for its services grew, but the mental health team did an incredible job.
“The Central team is a very hard-working group of individuals.
“These people put their heart into what they do. They give it their best.”
She said she was “overwhelmed” by the farewell her colleagues had given her, and was looking forward to spending more time with her family in her retirement. She has four children and 10 grandchildren.
“I think it’s just the right time to retire. It will be lovely to spend more time with my family and not always be thinking ‘I’ve got to get back to work at the end of the week’.”