Mental Health & Addiction Update - 29 April 2020

on 30 April

Mental Health & Addiction Update

Kia ora whānau

Robyn Shearer - DDG Mental Health & Addiction

Welcome to Level 3!

I hope you are all getting to grips with your new routines, whether that’s pretty much the same as Level 4 or slightly more like ‘normal’ life with people in your bubble returning to work and school. I know that for some of you the chance to get back to work or pick up a favourite takeaway meal will be something that you have looked forward to.

But with the move to Level 3, we are again faced with a time of change in what has been a really uncertain time so it’s important to remember that it’s okay not to feel okay. On that note, I’m pleased to see that the online tools we launched a couple of weeks ago are reporting good numbers of people signing up to use them.

Within about a week, Mentemia was downloaded about 35,000 times, over 1,000 people signed up for the Staying on Track e-therapy course, almost 1,200 people signed up to Melon and the Getting Through Together website had almost 35,000 visitors. These numbers show us that there is clearly a need for online tools as an option for some to help maintain their mental health and wellbeing.

Many thanks to our partners for all the hard work they have put in over the past few weeks to get these campaigns and tools up and running as quickly as they have. Their commitment to making a difference to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders is heartening.

Just as a reminder, you can find links to these tools on our website and I encourage you to try one yourself and share them with your networks. And of course, for those that need them, existing mental health and addiction services continue to be available over the phone or video call.

In the spirit of trying something new, you might have seen that yesterday Dr Sarb Johal (aka the Useful Psychologist) and I co-hosted a Facebook live chat to talk about the importance of looking after mental wellbeing during these unusual times. We received a number of thoughtful questions that we answered as part of the session and I was thrilled to see we had about 200 people join us for the chat.

I’m keen to do more of these sessions as we move through the stages of dealing with the impact COVID-19 is having on all of us. It’s a great way to connect and understand directly from Kiwis the things that are on their mind. I’d like to thank Sarb for joining me and providing some insightful but practical tips about what people can do to look after their mental wellbeing and help keep the relationships in their bubbles happy ones. If you didn’t get a chance to join us live, you can watch the recording of the session on our Facebook page.

The last thing I wanted to let you all know is something that my team and I are really proud of.

On Saturday, Health Minister David Clark announced an additional investment of $40 million to expand primary mental health and addiction services, serving a population of about 1.5 million Kiwis by the middle of next year. The announcement was made following a successful pilot programme running since mid-2019 with Health Improvement Practitioners, or HIPs, in 22 GP clinics in nine DHB areas round the country. People using these services report the life-changing effects of being able to see someone quickly - feeling less anxious, reconnecting with loved ones and sleeping better at night.

Rolling out such an ambitious new service requires an entirely new workforce and I’m happy to say that even during Level 4 lockdown, we haven’t lost momentum by adapting the training so that from next week it can be delivered virtually.

Thank you to all the people who have worked behind the scenes to get the pilot sites up and running. The support you have shown for your communities is evident when I hear the feedback that many of you are getting from your patients and GPs.

Three of the pilot sites are in the Taupō and Turangi area where Maree McCracken is Clinical Director for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Pinnacle Midlands Health Network and has been responsible for implementing the new services.

Check out the short videos below where Maree and Kirsty, one of the HIPs in her area, talk about their experiences. Thank you Maree and Kirsty for sharing just some of your journey with us.

One thing that Kirsty says makes me feel so proud: “GPs are saying it’s one of the best innovations in primary care practice for a long time, and particularly being able to access effective help very quickly.”

Until next time, kia kaha and be well in your bubbles.

Robyn

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