Mental Health & Addiction Update - 17 February 2021

on 18 February

Mental Health & Addiction Update

Toni Gutschlag

Toni Gutschlag
Acting Deputy Director-General, Mental Health and Addiction


Kia ora whānau

I know there might be some heightened levels of anxiety for some in our communities with the recent changes in Alert Levels.

If you are a provider of health services, please remember that there is free counselling support available to frontline healthcare professionals – call 0800 820 080 or visit Healthcare NZ for more information.

It’s been a very busy start to the year for us with a number of announcements for example, you can read below about $4 million in funding to support the mental health and wellbeing of our Rainbow community.


There’s also progress being made with growing the mental health and addiction workforce. The latest intake into Massey University’s Te Rau Puawai programme was last week. Through Budget 19, the Ministry has funded 46 additional bursaries that help Māori students with their studies to become mental health professionals.  A total of 120 people were awarded bursaries this year.

Last week, I joined a virtual panel discussion about women, leadership and mental health as part of the Australasian TheMHS Conference - Balancing the System. The panel comprised of myself, Fiona Stanley (Patron, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research), Robyn Shields (Psychiatrist in Training and Former NSW Deputy Mental Health Commissioner), and Fay Jackson (General Manager of Inclusion at Flourish Australia).

It was a privilege to be part of a panel with such inspirational women and hear their stories of leadership and their personal reflections on their experiences as female leaders working in the mental health sector.

I’ve also been busy over the last few weeks visiting some of our partner organisations in Auckland, the Bay of Plenty and Southland. You can read more below about the great work happening in Southland in rolling out new youth services and integrated primary mental health and addiction services.

While in Auckland, I was pleased to meet with the chief executives of the four national mental health workforce development centres Te Pou, Werry Centre, Le Va and Te Rau Ora. Each of these organisations has a large work programme to grow and develop the health workforce and I appreciated the opportunity to engage on our respective priorities for 2021.

I also visited Youthline with two members of my team, Jo Chiplin (Group Manager, Primary and Community Wellbeing) and Segina Te Ahuahu (Principal Advisor, Māori). I really enjoyed meeting with and hearing from people delivering services for young people. It was inspiring to hear from staff about their personal journeys – starting as Youthline volunteers and now working as paid mental health professionals.

A visit to Homecare Medical gave me the opportunity to meet and thank a number of people working on the mental health and addiction text and phone services. It was lovely to see the faces and names behind the 1737 logo. I also met with the Chief Executive at the Mental Health Foundation to discuss some of our upcoming priorities and challenges and hear about their work.

I was impressed with the dedication and collaboration shown by all the service providers. To achieve the kind of transformation we need with New Zealand’s approach to mental health and addiction, we need to work together well for collective impact. Everyone’s commitment to achieving positive outcomes and playing a role in the transformation was heartening.

Visiting the team at Youthline including Chief Executive, Shae Ronald (second from right)

Ngā mihi nui


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