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Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has released a statement saying that people are receiving the mental health and addiction services they need.
He pressed the importance of people having access to these services within an “appropriate time frame,” adding that it was “encouraging” to see youth access had apparently improved.
2015 figures released by the Ministry of Health show that more than 44,500 young people (aged 19 and under) sought help for mental health issues. Seventy per cent were seen by counselling services within three weeks, and 91 per cent were seen within two months of the initial consultation.
Coleman also noted that over the last five years there has been a 21 per cent increase, and “mental health and addiction services across the country are responding to increased demand.”
The National-led Government has increased mental health and addiction services funding by $300 million since the 2008/9 Ministry of Health report.
One VUW student who had received counselling through Student Health said that they had been able to book an appointment within two weeks, but that “it was at the beginning of this year, so was most likely not a busy time.”
They went on to say they were lucky, and if they had to wait two months between the initial consultation and first appointment (as per the statistic reported by the Ministry of Health) they would have felt “fairly frustrated.”
“Quick access to facilities like this is integral to making sure that the student body’s mental health is well,” the student said.
Conversely, another student said they had tried to book a counselling appointment in September of last year, but would have had to wait at least eight weeks before they could be seen. This led her to forgo booking an appointment, and has made her “dubious” of turning to Student Health for counselling. She said at the time she was “very distressed and wanted help after being diagnosed with pretty serious depression.”
According to the latest New Zealand Doctor / IMS Health fax poll, nearly 75 percent of GPs don’t feel equipped to deal with the increase of mental health cases.
President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Professor Hopwood said responsibility for mental health support falls equally on health care providers, but notes that GPs are typically the first people consulted for health needs, and so proportionally would see the majority of mental health cases first.