Mental Health & Addiction Update - 24 March 2022

on 25 March


In this edition:

  • Real mental health and addiction nurses onscreen in new recruitment campaign
  • More online and digital tools available to support wellbeing
  • COVID-19 Vaccine and Immunisation – Peer Support Fund
  • Can you help us test and refine proposals for new mental health legislation?
  • Surging the health workforce during the Omicron response
  • Have your say on how the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission monitors the mental health and addiction system
  • COVID-19 wellbeing video
  • Last chance to apply for the forensic workforce development grant

Kia ora koutou

Firstly, I wanted to extend my gratitude to all of you soldiering on through this Omicron wave and keeping services available. We know that many vulnerable people need our support at this challenging time and the efforts you are putting in to continue to provide it makes a real difference in people's lives.

This is not an easy time for our sector, but I am pleased to see data suggesting we are coming off the Omicron peak with cases in Auckland, and a decline expected nationally by early April. 

Philip Grady Deputy Director-General, Mental Health and Addiction

Philip Grady
Acting Deputy Director-General, Mental Health and Addiction

In case you missed it, the Prime Minister announced changes this week to the COVID-19 Protection Framework to target restrictions at those activities that reduce transmission the most. The My Vaccine Pass will no longer be required by the Government from 4 April, meaning Kiwis will no longer have to be vaccinated to enter the workplaces and venues covered by the Pass. Scanning in requirements will also end for all environments.

From 4 April, vaccine mandates will be removed, except for health and disability, aged care, corrections and border workforces. The rationale behind this is to keep our COVID-19 frontline staff safe and to ensure our most vulnerable, like those in aged care facilities or those with disabilities, are protected from the virus. Also, the Care in the Community Framework was updated recently, so I’d encourage you to familiarise yourself with it.

This week has been a big one for the Mental Health and Addiction directorate. On Tuesday, three new initiatives were launched by Health Minister Andrew Little. The first was a nursing recruitment campaign ‘You’re Ready’ featuring real mental health nurses talking about the difference they are making in the community. The 2-year campaign aims to both encourage more nurses to specialise in mental health and addiction, and to attract a more diverse workforce to better serve the communities they care for.

The second launch was the ‘All Sorts’ national psychosocial campaign which talks about the fact we might be feeling all sorts of emotions right now and that there are all sorts of ways to deal with it. The campaign includes online resources, tips and tools to help New Zealanders navigate some of the wellbeing challenges from the pandemic.

We also announced two new mental wellbeing apps which are free to all New Zealanders on the Apple and Android app devices. The first app, Groov, is co-founded by Sir John Kirwan and aims to support people 19-years and older with day-to-day mental wellbeing, as well as at times of increased stress or distress. The second app, HABITs Messenger, is a chatbot platform co-designed with young people by Auckland University. It’s aimed at 12 to 18-year-olds and delivers wellbeing support via brief interactive chat sessions.

It was great to have a front-row seat to these announcements and be able to showcase some of the new supports coming online for New Zealanders. This was especially valuable in the context of the report that also came out from the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission. 

The report looked into the progress being made regarding the rollout of the 2019 wellbeing budget initiatives, but left out some key initiatives like Access and Choice which has grown to 850 health professionals now providing wellbeing support all around the country.

There’s no doubt the report was a mix of encouraging words and criticisms, but one of the real takeaways for me was just how important the role of the Commission is. It’s important we continue to see attention given to the areas of this system that require improvement and that we are able to track progress.

It’s clear the system we have wasn’t designed for the number of people now looking for support and treatment with mental health and wellbeing issues. Everyone at the Ministry, including me and my team, will continue to work hard and advocate on your behalf for positive change.

Ngā mihi,

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