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Mental Health and Addictions in Canterbury was the topic of a talk by Monique Gale who is the local Portfolio Manager for Mental Health. It was especially appropriate as this is Mental Health Awareness Week.

Monique, whose background is in social work, gave an outline of He Ara Oranga, the 2018 Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. She also spoke about Pae Ora, the Healthy Futures Act which came into being on 1 July 2022, and will change the public health system. We are currently in transition from 20 District Health Boards to four regional systems. This will take considerable time and work, but eventually health IT systems will all be able to talk to each other, and your health records will be available anywhere in Aotearoa. The biggest challenge is to recruit a suitably trained workforce. At present there are positions which are funded, but cannot be filled.

There are many self-care digital services available for mental health, and these can be accessed by phoning 1737. Mental health services all have targets for wait times, and in Canterbury wait times have been especially high for child and youth services, with a recent huge increase in demand. A new building at Hillmorton Hospital, due to open early 2023 will include the “stranded” services currently still at Princess Margaret Hospital. There has been an increase in NGO care, sometimes offered in a peer support model.

Te Tumu Waiora is a grass roots service where mental health care is embedded in General Practices, and staffed by Health Coaches and Health Improvement Practitioners. More women than men access mental health services, and there have been large increases in the demand for this, especially since the earthquakes and the mosque massacre.

Monique was asked whether there was meaningful extra funding to deal with the aftermath of the earthquakes as there are often no therapists available. She replied that staffing was an ongoing problem, and that young people in particular are facing multiple crises, including Covid and Climate Change. Restrictions in the training of Clinical Psychologists and General Practitioners are mainly caused by the lack of suitable placements.

Asked about the high rate of suicide in Aotearoa, Monique pointed out that the End Of Life Choice Act passed in 2019, may lead to an increase in suicide as has happened in other countries with similar laws. This is because people start to understand that they have a choice.

She finished by reminding us about the Five Ways to Wellbeing, which are so important, and pointed out how coming to U3A helped us to meet those five ways.

I was the person chosen today to thank our speaker, Monique (an opportunity to Give). Having been well-trained in Tecorians, public speaking does not daunt me. However I was somewhat daunted by the fact that most of her talk had been theoretical, and I am cynical as to how much is actually in operation.

We must remember to be gentle
take special care of health that’s mental

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