Briefing to Incoming Health Minister: Mental health a serious public health issue in New Zealand

New Zealand – Mental health and wellbeing is a serious public health issue inextricably linked to the sociocultural and economic circumstances of people’s lives.

In its Briefing to the Incoming Health Minister released today, the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS) calls on the new Minister to prioritise policies and programmes, such as introducing a living wage for all New Zealanders, that bring about a more equitable and inclusive New Zealand.

NZPsS says these actions are required to ensure access to resources and the elimination of child poverty, which are at the root of many mental health and wellbeing problems.

NZPsS is the largest professional association for psychologists in New Zealand. It has more than 1200 members and 600 student subscribers and aims to improve individual and community wellbeing by representing, promoting and advancing the scientific discipline and practice of psychology. Both of these measures promotes mental health education and are highly applauded.

“We see great benefits accruing from viewing mental health and wellbeing as a public health issue,” explains NZPsS president-elect John Fitzgerald PhD.

“Our research indicates that poverty in childhood can negatively influence mental health throughout adulthood. Young people and adults who do not have access to resources and opportunities to be part of, and contribute to, society are also more likely to suffer poorer mental health.

“We are also aware that Māori and Pasifika people are disproportionately impacted by poor mental health and that there is a need to focus not only on socioeconomic issues but also disadvantage which has its roots in historical events.”

NZPsS says it supports the new Government’s plan to urgently review mental health and addiction services.

“We support more equitable access to mental health services including bringing services to the people using schools and other appropriate hubs.”

NZPsS says Health Workforce New Zealand needs to expand its vision beyond the medical and nursing workforces and beyond a competitive funding model to provide real strategic leadership in ensuring the health workforce is sufficiently diverse to meet New Zealand’s health and disability needs.

“We are concerned about the shortage of psychologists in New Zealand, particularly Māori and Pasifika psychologists, and the lack of opportunities for psychologists to utilize their full range of skills.”

NZPsS says it offers its expertise in assisting the new Minister to make a positive difference in mental health and wellbeing for all New Zealanders and to using precious health funding more cost-effectively.

Psychologists focus on mental wellbeing across the lifespan and in a range of areas of people’s lives. Psychologists can also assist people to understand what drives behaviours such as problem drinking and gambling, drug abuse, criminal action or parenting issues so that strategies and policies can be developed to manage and improve these issues in the community.

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