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Parenting key to improving national mental health


Auckland-based parenting expert, Jackie Riach, has welcomed recognition in He Ara Oranga that early childhood and parenting support services provide a critical window to improve children’s and adult mental health.

However, the Triple P New Zealand manager and psychologist said the Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction stops short of providing concrete solutions to ensure that early intervention and prevention support services are available across the country for New Zealand families.

“The evidence is very clear that parenting is one of the most influential factors governing a host of physical, financial and emotional outcomes for individuals across their lifetimes, both positively and negatively,’’

However, parents needed help to recognise that a lot of the stress they are experiencing can stem from those day-to-day parenting issues that everyone struggles with and that only small adjustments can have a major impact on family life.

“We need to convince everyone, not just the Government, but the people supporting families as well as parents themselves that it’s the way we manage those issues that can have such a critical impact on our own and our children’s wellbeing.

“Providing evidence-based parenting support services across the country for all families would go a long way to addressing the report’s identified need to provide prevention and early intervention services to improve the mental health of New Zealand citizens.”

Ms Riach said such a measure would be extremely cost-effective because a large component would involve upskilling existing workforces across a wide variety of sectors as well as providing evidence-based support services direct to parents online.

Workforces across the community, including the education and health sector, could be trained to identify potential mental health concerns as parenting issues, and then provide evidence-based support to reduce parental stress and improve children’s outcomes.

Ms Riach said every government department in New Zealand needed to take the role of parenting seriously and play a role in extending universal evidence-based parenting support to all families to ensure that services are provided as early as possible and to as many people as possible.

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