We have a mental health epidemic in New Zealand. One in five people experience mental illness or significant mental distress each year; as many as three quarters of New Zealanders will experience some degree of mental distress or addiction challenges, or both, at some point in their lives.
There are significant social and cultural risk factors. Poverty and deprivation, poor housing, family violence or neglect, social isolation and ethnic background are key determinants of mental distress and addictions issues and of poorer outcomes.
Since 2005 the Ministry of Health has funded primary mental health initiatives through Primary Health Organisations, primarily aimed at high needs groups and for those people with mild to moderate mental health need. These services vary considerably around the country, but generally involve referral for a small number of counseling sessions, with limited connection to other primary care providers. For many New Zealanders access to primary mental health services is self-funded.
He Ara Oranga, the Government inquiry into mental health and addictions and the subsequent Government response has set the direction for future services.
The Inquiry noted ‘the striking degree of consensus, from most parts of New Zealand society, about the need for change and a new direction: an emphasis on wellbeing and community, with more prevention and early intervention, expanded access to services, more treatment options, treatment closer to home, whānau- and community-based responses and cross-government action’.
The $1.9bn investment committed to mental health services in the 2019 ‘Wellbeing Budget’ will change lives and communities and allow people who need support to access it when they need it.
It includes investment of $455m to develop new frontline primary mental health services which can be accessed through general practice, iwi health providers and other community agencies over the next five years, providing support for an estimated 325,000 people by 2023/24.
The Northland DHB has been working with Mahitahi Hauora, local NGOs, tangata whaiora and international experts over the past three years to develop a new way to provide convenient, personalised care and support for people experiencing mental distress or addiction challenges.
The Te Tumu Waiora model of care is the culmination of that work.
Based on international evidence and local co-design, the new model of care provides rapid, targeted brief intervention to people who are experiencing mental distress or who need behavioral advice and support. The service is currently available free of charge.