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Youth Mental Health Leaders’ Forum

27 June 2008

Youth Mental Health Leaders’ Forum

The Mental Health Commission is drawing together health and community leaders at a youth mental health forum in Auckland today.

Representatives from health, education, law, youth, Maori, Pacific, the public sector and community work are attending the one-day forum, which was opened by the Minister of Health, David Cunliffe, this morning.

Chair Commissioner Peter McGeorge says the forum will identify gaps in mental health services for young people, along with possible solutions.

“For example, we know that youth experiencing mental health problems are less likely than adults to use the existing mental health services so we need to work out the best way of offering the help they need,” says Dr McGeorge.

“That might include some of the things already on offer but it might also mean working in different ways or providing different types of services. That’s what we hope to draw out of today’s forum.”

Statistics from Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health survey 2006 estimate that 28.6 percent of youth aged 16 to 24 experience mental disorders within a 12-month period, with a smaller number (7.2 percent) experiencing serious disorders. The figure of 28.6 percent compares with 25.1 percent of 25-44 year olds experiencing mental disorders within a 12-month period, 17.4 percent of 45-64 year olds, and 7.1 percent of people aged 65 plus.

“The challenge is to somehow turn those figures around,” says Dr McGeorge.

“The people here today have the skills and experience to make a real difference to the mental wellbeing of youth.”

A paediatrician and youth health physician at Counties-Manukau DHB, Dr Peter Watson, welcomed the opportunity to take part in today’s forum.

“As a practitioner I’ve been very concerned about the future direction of youth mental health services. No one’s arguing about the need for more work in this area – the question is about what sort of work we need to be doing.

“It’s good to see the Mental Health Commission taking a lead by bringing together some of the best minds from around the country to forge a path forward.”


Background about the Mental Health Commission:

The Mental Health Commission was established as a ministerial committee in response to the recommendations of the 1996 Mason Inquiry into Mental Health Services. In April 1998 it became a Crown entity. Its term has been extended three times, the most recent in August 2007, when its term was extended to 2015. At that time, the Commission’s functions were reframed to align with the future direction of the mental health and addiction sector.

The Mental Health Commission’s functions as defined by the Mental Health Commission Amendment Act 2007 are to:

- advocate for the interests of people with mental illness and their families generally (rather than for individuals or groups), while taking into account the interests of other stakeholders;
- promote and facilitate collaboration and communication about mental health issues;
- work independently and with others to promote better understanding of mental illness by the community, reduce the stigma and prejudice associated with mental illness, and to eliminate inappropriate discrimination on the grounds of mental illness;
- monitor, and to report to and advise the Minister on the implementation of the national mental health strategy;
- stimulate and support the development of integrated and effective methods or systems of providing care;
- stimulate and to do research into any matter relevant to mental illness.


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