Call for more unified approach to mental health care

13 Oct, 2009
Call for more unified approach to mental health care
Professor Max Abbott

Much more needs to be done in primary health settings to meet the growing need for mental health care. 

AUT University Professor Max Abbott says mental health is becoming an international health priority, with the World Health Organisation determining that by 2020 depression will be second only to cardiovascular disease in contributing to the total global burden of disease.

He says about half of New Zealanders experience a mental disorder some time in their lives; one-in five of the population currently.

Professor Abbott says most people go untreated and this has major consequences in terms of quality of life, strained and broken relationships, lost workdays, physical health and medical costs.

While commending recent government initiatives to improve access to mental health care in primary health settings, Professor Abbott says much more needs to be done to effectively reach the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders suffering from depression, anxiety disorders and alcohol and drug problems.

This includes up-skilling doctors and nurses, including mental health professionals in primary care teams, and improving linkages with specialist mental health services.

As part of Mental Health Week (October 5-11) AUT is hosting a half-day workshop and evening seminar – Mental Health in Primary Care: Enhancing Treatment and Promoting Mental Health.

Associate Minister of Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman will discuss Ministry policy on mental health in primary care and Professor Bruce Arroll, a GP with the ProCare network, will discuss mental health initiatives in the primary sector.

The focus for the half-day workshop is on strategies for shaping the future of mental health. Workshop speakers will cover the role of DHBs in promoting primary mental health, recent mental health initiatives and those being planned by the Ministry of Health, and Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand chief executive Dr Judi Clements will discuss improving mental health and wellbeing.

Five general strategies for wellbeing – connect, give, take notice, learn and be active – are being promoted by the Mental Health Foundation.

Professor Abbott says recognising the interconnectedness between mental and physical illness is another crucial step in the long-term management of mental health.

For more information please contact:

Professor Max Abbott, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences