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More focus needed on people’s wellbeing to reduce risk of mental illness

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

People with low levels of wellbeing are eight times more likely to develop a mental illness according to experts presenting at the 7th Australasian Mental Health Outcomes and Information Conference (AMHOIC) starting in Auckland today.

Matthew Iasiello and Joep Van Agteren research mental wellbeing. They are from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and Flinders University. They say mental wellbeing is about feeling good, functioning well psychologically, and participating in a community, and that a person’s ability to have a high level of wellbeing is impacted by their social and economic environment.

They say having no systematic assessment of wellbeing in Australia and NZ means we have no way of knowing who is at risk of developing a mental illness until it is too late. As a response, SAHMRI released a measurement platform that allows the community to get a snapshot of their mental health, their wellbeing and symptoms of distress, and track it over time.

"(Mental) Illness is about symptoms of disorder like depression and anxiety; whereas mental health is also about things that build your wellbeing like positive emotions, a sense of meaning and quality relationships," says Matthew Iasiello.

"Our research looks at integrating wellbeing measures into the mental health care system so we have a better idea of who is at risk, their level of risk and what we can do to reduce the risk of mental illness before it’s too late."

Joep van Agteren says a focus on wellbeing and not just on mental illness, means new interventions can be introduced to help people improve their overall mental health.

The focus of the AMHOIC conference hosted by Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui, is on measuring the success of new and existing mental health and addiction services. The conference brings together more than 200 mental health and addiction specialists from New Zealand and Australia to share knowledge, insights and tools around harnessing the power of information to improve people’s wellbeing.

The conference programme has been developed to respond to ‘He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.’ It includes real examples of how the mental health and addiction sector uses information and outcomes to influence change. The conference includes presentations by government agencies, health and social services, non-government organisations, community-based organisations, researchers and education providers. AMHOIC is being held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Auckland and runs from today until Friday.

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