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Ministry releases mental health promotion strategy

Media Release

29 January 2003

Ministry releases mental health promotion strategy

A new, five-year approach to promoting mental health in New Zealand is being released today by the Ministry of Health.

Deputy Director-General of Public Health Dr Don Matheson said the mental health promotion strategy, Building on Strengths, is the culmination of two years' work with more than 200 individuals and organisations.

Building on Strengths identifies key directions and opportunities the health and disability sector can support to improve mental health.

It also recognises that real progress will only be made through co-operation with other sectors, including local government, other government departments, Maori, Pacific and other community groups.

``Mental health is an inseparable component of total wellbeing -- there is no health without mental health,'' Dr Matheson said.

"When we look at the causes of illness in the community, mental illness, particularly depression, is a major contributor. This document addresses how to promote mental health, both for the wider community and those who are affected by a mental condition.

``There is no `quick fix' or `magic bullet'. There is the experience of a number of community development programmes, and programmes such as `Like Minds Like Mine', which have shown that mental health promotion can make a very positive impact on the lives of individuals and communities.

``We have to promote safe, cohesive environments to better protect the positive mental health and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.''

Building on Strengths has three goals: to reduce mental health inequalities experienced by some groups; create environments that are supportive of positive mental health and improve individual and community resiliency.

``Because mental health is the result of so many interacting factors and because there is no single way to promote mental health, a number of options are needed to reflect the diversity of mental health needs, the settings that apply and the population health gains expected,'' Dr Matheson said.

``Building on Strengths builds on the good work already being done throughout the country at local, regional and national levels and gives a strategic focus to the further development of mental health promotion activity in New Zealand over the next five years.''

Priority actions outlined by the strategy focus on: strengthening individuals by increasing resiliency through programmes that promote coping skills; building community cohesiveness through activities that make them safer, and reducing structural barriers to mental health through partnerships to improve access to conditions that promote positive mental health, such as education, meaningful employment and suitable housing.

The Ministry's Public Health Directorate has currently allocated about $8.5 million of the 2002/03 budgets to mental health promotion activities, which includes funding for the national destigmatisation campaign `Like Minds Like Mine'. While the Building on Strengths strategy does not affect the overall funding for mental health promotion, it will help focus the sector on building activities in this area.

Building on Strengths: A new approach to promoting mental health in New Zealand /Aotearoa is available on the Ministry website


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