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Getting The Most Out Of Mental Health Services

Annette King

Launch of Oranga Ngakau --- getting the most out of mental health services

Thank you to Mary O'Hagan for the welcome, and a special thank you to Newtown Union Health Service for hosting this important event.

I am delighted to be launching Oranga Ngakau at South East and City Primary Health Organisation.

Oranga Ngakau is a resource produced by the Mental Health Commission for people who access mental health services. It is designed to inform them of how things work, who might treat them, how to get in and out of services, and what types of services they might use.

But the most important aspect of this publication is that it has been written by service users.

I still strongly remember that moving occasion early in October last year at the launch of the most recent Like Minds/Like Mine campaign.

For me the most impressive and valuable part of that launch was listening to the stories of people who have experienced mental illness, and I am sure similar insights will ensure this publication does the job it is intended to do.

Most people with mental health problems receive their initial treatment and support from primary health services, and currently guidelines for the inclusion of mental health services in PHOs are being prepared by the Ministry of Health in consultation with the sector.

South East and City PHO, including Newtown Union Health Service, and other PHOs are providing exciting new mental health services, using a range of mental health professionals, like mental health nurses, psychologists, counsellors and others. For example, there has been much praise for the work done by the mental health nurse at Newtown Union. Jo's experience, skills and friendly manner have made a very big difference to the lives of many Wellington service users, and my hope is that similar services can achieve the same effect around the country.

Using the skills of a range of mental health professionals within PHOs can greatly relieve the burden on busy GPs. Kathy James at Newtown Union is a classic example of a very busy GP. As well as her work here, she sits on the Mental Health Commission advisory group and contributes to other professional groups.

Effective primary care services can certainly help to reduce the demand for expensive and resource-intensive secondary and tertiary services - and they also help prevent people getting really sick.

The other benefit of working through PHOs is that physical and mental health care can be integrated, and there is good evidence to suggest how important that is. The commission is researching the physical health of mental health service users, and the signs are that the news is not good.

Alcohol and drug, and mental health service users fare badly in terms of their physical health compared with the rest of the population.

The research, due out within the next few weeks, shows that service users have particularly high incidences of heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illness.

And in a recent Western Australian study, it was found that mental health service users were five times more likely to die from the flu than the general population.

Improving the physical health of mental health service users has been an objective of the national health strategy for three years. It's time for the sector to start talking more about the issue.

The commission is still looking at solutions. It's a complex issue, and we don't want to oversimplify the debate.

Oranga Ngakau is a flagship publication for the commission. This is a recovery resource for service users, and has been written to make their experience of services as easy and unconfusing as possible.

We will hear soon from three people who will tell us what it was like when they first started using mental health services. I have heard people describe their first experiences in a variety of ways --- scary, confusing, a relief, daunting, taking a step on the road to recovery.

I hope this booklet will make the recovery journey easier. It has useful tips throughout, such as how to take an active role in your recovery, what to do to give the treatment a better chance of working, what to do if you disagree with your diagnosis.

There are many other suggestions too, and the booklet also has references for more information, and quotes from people who have been through the experience. It also has information on Maori and Pacific services and how to access them.

I hope this booklet is widely distributed to those using services, and I am sure that consumer advisors and mental health services managers in District Health Boards will help ensure this happens.

We all know that information is power. Oranga Ngakau provides information to people when they are going through a very difficult time in their lives, and I hope it strengthens and empowers them in their recovery journey.

Congratulations to Mary O'Hagan and the commission and everyone else who has contributed to this resource. It is my great pleasure to launch it today.


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