Mental Health Awareness Needs Bigger Campaign, “One Week Is Not Enough”
Mental health is the biggest health problem in New Zealand, just behind Covid-19, the director of the Mental Health Foundation said.
Chief Executive Officer Shaun Robinson said Radio Tarana in an interview that spending just a week on mental health awareness was not enough, calling for the issue to be granted a campaign similar to that of Covid-19.
Mental Health Awareness Week kicked off on Monday September 27 and runs through Sunday October 3.
Health Minister Andrew Little last week announced a new 10-year plan for mental health and an oversight body to keep it on track.
* Mental health: the government creates a new ten-year plan and a monitoring body
* Covid-19: Experts predict increasing pressure on South Auckland mental health services
* Mental health: Head of Suicide Prevention Bureau resigns after just two years, second recent departure from Ministry of Health
* Biggest government mental health boss quits job after 10 months
* Boss exiting mental health watchdog frustrated by lackluster survey response
Robinson said there were things the government could do immediately to start making progress on the issue.
“If we saw as many reminders to connect with each other, to take care of our mental health as to wear masks and get vaccinated, then we would start to reverse the mental health epidemic as much as we start to reverse the Covid-19 epidemic, “said Robinson.
Official figures from the Department of Health from 2006 indicate that 20 percent of adults in one year will experience something that could be diagnosed as mental illness.
“Twenty percent will now be an underestimate,” said Robinson.
“This makes mental health the biggest health problem after Covid-19; it has never been fully recognized, has never been fully accepted, for decades, which is why it has been so serious.”
Robinson, who has sharply criticized the government’s 2019 mental health pledge, said the country was in the midst of a mental health crisis and the government needed a different way of doing things now.
“We just received something this week that looks like a plan on how these 38 recommendations that the government accepted in 2019 are going to be implemented.
“Two and a half years later, we just had a plan,” said Robinson.
“The government rushed to spend that money and didn’t really think about how to achieve all of these 38 things, so we had a very lopsided approach.
“It’s a mixture of mistakes that could have been avoided, because of systematic problems with the way government works and then things they couldn’t control, namely Covid-19.”
Robinson said the government needs to make fundamental changes if the country is to emerge from the mental health crisis, but “it won’t be for at least another decade.”
“This is how big and deep the problem is, so we can’t wave the magic wand and say it’s going to be fixed in two years.”
- Play the audio to listen to Robinson’s full interview with Sunday @ 5 program host Vandhna Bhan