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NZ leads region for mental health efforts - report

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

In the first ever Mental Health and Integration Report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), New Zealand (NZ) claims top spot in the region, just ahead of Australia, for assisting people living with mental illness integrate successfully into communities. However, mental health experts are warning against any degree of complacency when life expectancy for those living with serious mental illness is up to 25 years less than the general population.

The report compares and ranks 15 countries-in Asia Pacific, and while NZ's efforts and achievements have been recognised, the report also reiterated that we still face a number of major challenges.

Mental health advocate and contributor to the EIU report, Judi Clements said stigma was found to be one of the core challenges facing all 15 countries.

"There is still a lot of work to be done around the more complex mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, where discrimination is still resulting in people experiencing social exclusion and unemployment."

"However, we should be encouraged that a key reason for NZ's relative success with mental health and integration has been our long-term commitment to reducing the stigma of mental illness with campaigns such as 'Like Minds, Like Mine'. It was established in 1997 and is highlighted in the EIU's report."

Fragmented service delivery is an area of weakness for both top performers with local service provision varying between district health boards in NZ. While NZ is better at coordination than Australia, its increased use of community treatment orders is high by international standards and has attracted the attention of the UN Human Rights Commission.

"The use of compulsory assessment and treatment is incompatible with human rights and the philosophy of recovery. A move to supported decision making is needed, as the UN Committee is encouraging," said Ms Clements.

The pervasiveness of stigma, the rural-urban divide and the economic impact of mental illness - which currently knocks 5% off GDP in NZ - were some of the major challenges faced by all 15 countries in the EIU report.

Resource spend on mental health is one of the key contributors to successful mental health integration. In NZ, $1.2B was spent on mental health in 2010/11 (10% of health budget) with 76% going to community-based care.

This report is the second in a series by the EIU, the first being completed for Europe. It has been commissioned by Janssen Asia Pacific with the EIU retaining complete editorial control.

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