Mental health acute in the south

Taking mental health seriously is a priority for central government. Mental health challenges are even bigger across the Southern DHB catchment and we must ensure we get our hands on a fair share of mental health funding.

The Wellbeing Budget allocated a new $455m frontline mental health service, as well as $40m for suicide prevention.

Services will be progressively rolled out over the next five years across the country (recognising the need to train more qualified mental health workers and build new facilities). It will put trained mental health workers in doctors’ clinics, iwi health providers and other health services so that when people seek help it is immediately available.

Where and how these mental health services will be provided isn’t clear. The government has only said they will design and develop local services in consultation with local communities, the sector and those with experience.

I agree that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, but I worry that the onus has been left on each individual DHB to build up its case for support.

We need to ensure that the Southern DHB puts together a strong case to central government so that the south gets its fair share of the half a billion dollars of mental health funding.

Central government has estimated that issues stemming from serious mental illness alone shave five per cent off the New Zealand economy.

The burden on southern economies from mental illness is likely to be even greater, considering the higher insistence of mental health challenges across the south.

I dipped my toes into suicide statistics from the Coroner and they make for scary analysis.

Suicide rates in the south trended downwards from 2008 to 2014, but have since risen sharply. The last three years have been particularly worrying.

We lost 57 people to suicide across the south over the past 12 months alone.

Those living in the south are also more likely to take their own life than the national average. There were 17 suicides per 100,000 of population across the Southern DHB area in the June 2019 year, compared to 13.93 nationally per 100,000 of population.

To address these trends, we need better access to mental health services in the south.

The timeline rollout of the government’s new frontline mental health services across the Southern DHB is a must.

Let’s make health happen.

Authorised by Benje Patterson, 5 Ashenhurst Way, Lower Shotover, Queenstown.