Ministry braces for post-quake mental health issues

8:43 pm on 20 November 2016

The Ministry of Health says it has taken steps to relieve mental health stress arising from last Monday's earthquake, especially in Kaikoura.

A family reunites after the shakes in Kaikoura.

The Canterbury District Health Board and Kaikoura Health Centre have rostered extra nurses, doctors and mental health workers to help people in the quake's aftermath. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Reports are coming in of what the ministry calls psychosocial health issues.

Ministry director of protection, regulation and assurance Stuart Jessamine said it was to be expected that mental health issues would start to emerge as people got tired.

The Canterbury District Health Board and the Kaikoura Health Centre were rostering on extra nurses, doctors and mental health workers to help people recover, he said.

DHB chief medical officer Sue Nightingale, who was the region's chief of psychiatry until recently, said after such a disaster it was normal for people to feel distressed and anxious.

"Accept that this is a normal way to feel, talk to your friends, talk to your family, but if you're feeling overwhelmed or if this isn't enough or you're not getting the practical support you need absolutely seek help."

Dr Jessamine said there had been six cases of gastrointestinal illness in the region, but they were isolated and did not amount to an outbreak.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was setting up a team to help people who were unable to get back into their homes.

Acting deputy chief executive of building, resources and markets Chris Bunny said the unit would pull in other government agencies to help provide mental health support and meet childcare needs.

But its first task was to find accommodation for those who needed it, he said.

"It's a service that will help them find alternative accommodation whilst their homes are being repaired or rebuilt."

It should become clear over the next 48 hours how many people needed help, Mr Bunny said.

It had not yet been decided if financial help would be provided.

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