24 Aug 2015

Call for more rural mental health funding

5:48 pm on 24 August 2015

A rural health body says increased government funding for mental health initiatives is a good start, but a lot more is needed.

The government recently announced a $500,000 funding boost for workshops on mental health issues, and to boost the number of volunteers working with rural support trusts.

The Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand will work with the Ministry of Health to run workshops around the country, which are aimed at increasing the skills of doctors, nurses and pharmacists working in rural areas, as well as farm consultants and stock agents.

Chief executive Michelle Thompson said a key focus for the 40 workshops was screening patients for suicide risk.

"We plan to hold workshops right across rural New Zealand and we've said that we would deliver in 20 locations.

"What we need to do is work out how we're going to divide the country up so that we gets best reach.

"We'll need to be looking at rural support trust boundaries, DHB boundaries and then we need to look at whether we'll go to the areas we perceive are highest need, so by that we mean those that are being impacted by the low dairy payout or those who've been hit by the recent adverse weather events."

Ms Thompson said the Rural Health Alliance had growing concerns about mental health in rural areas, especially with falling dairy prices.

"It's definitely a move in the right direction and it's great that government are actually joining forces to do this, but we need a lot more money to solve these really complex problems.

"The way we've looked at this money is that it's ultimately for an emergency response at the moment, so we want to work together with the key players to make sure we've got a safety net built around our rural communities at this point in time," she said.

"The other thing we're sort of finding is there are quite a few resources being put into this at the moment, but it seems to be they're very isolated, they're functioning in silos.

"One of our roles is to join those dots up so that everybody who's on the ground knows each other and can be used effectively."