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Coleman: Mental Health Policy On The Right Track

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Jonathan Coleman
Jonathan Coleman

10 August 2009 - Today's release of a report evaluating primary mental health initiatives shows that the government is on the right track with its mental health policy, says Associate Minister of Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman.

The report, produced by a team of researchers from the Departments of Primary Health Care and Public Health at the University of Otago in Wellington, evaluated the effectiveness of the Ministry of Health-funded Primary Mental Health Initiatives. It concluded that GPs, nurses, and counsellors working as a team can effectively recognise and manage mild to moderate common mental health conditions.

It found that up to 80 per cent of people benefited from using primary mental health services and were satisfied with them.

"Early intervention is vital when people are experiencing mental health problems, which is why this government is investing more in primary mental health services," says Dr Coleman.

In the May 2009 Budget, government invested an additional $5.3 million for primary mental health services to support Primary Care Practitioners to address mild to moderate mental health problems in primary health care.

Government has also supported continuation of the National Depression Initiative (NDI) with an additional investment of $2.675 million in 2009/10 bringing the total NDI funding to $4.908 million.

The National Depression Initiative is an important early intervention service that includes a depression helpline that provides support and information to callers, a website that links people to services and will provide an interactive self management programme for people with mild to moderate depression.

Just under half (46%) of New Zealand's population will suffer from mental health problems and mental illness sometime in their lives, with most suffering from anxiety, depression or substance-use conditions. The great majority have mild to moderate conditions, and are first seen in primary care.

"The Evaluation findings provide a good basis for moving forward and further developing primary care services that effectively address the needs of patients with mild to moderate mental health problems," says Dr Coleman.

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