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Budget 2005: National depression awareness funding


Budget 2005: National depression awareness initiative gets funding

Jim Anderton today announced a new $6.53 million (GST exclusive) National Depression Initiative aimed at changing and saving lives.

The Progressive Party secured the new funding over the next four financial years in the coalition government's sixth budget round, Budget 2005, for investment in a multi-pronged campaign about depression.

Mr Anderton said that while one in five New Zealanders may experience depression in their lifetime, few recognise the signs or seek help early enough to get effective treatment and avoid the negative impacts of depression on their lives and the lives of their families.

"Until now, too many of us have tended to stick our heads in the sand and pretend we could just ride out depression. Too many New Zealanders have been ashamed to talk about it, as if it is a character weakness. But anyone, including John Kirwan, can suffer from depression, and we need to encourage people to seek help earlier,” Mr Anderton said.

The National Depression Initiative, currently in its planning stages with the Ministry of Health, is likely to include the use of mass media, health workforce development and training, community based programmes to help people with mild to moderate depression, as well as their families.

The project will include a phone survey about depression, which will be used to monitor changes in public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours around depression. This announcement follows Mr Anderton’s release of the draft New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy last week.

Research shows that mood disorders, which include depression, are a key risk factor for suicide. Based on overseas evidence and a review of suicide prevention literature, depression awareness and associated access to help services has been recommended as a significant action point in the new all-ages approach to suicide prevention. The World Health Organization predicts depression will become the second major cause of disease by 2020. Yet in many cases depression is easily treatable, without it developing into a severe illness that in turn can lead to thoughts of suicide.

We need to reduce New Zealand’s suicide rate, and addressing depression is one way to do that. The Ministry of Health expects to complete the planning for the National Depression Initiative in late 2005.

Background: Depression Awareness Initiative

In Budget 2004 funding was secured for the scoping of a National Depression Initiative (NDI) and the final report is due in September 2005.

It will make recommendations for a multi-pronged initiative that are likely to include components such as a national multimedia campaign to raise awareness about depression similar to Like Minds and Australia’s Beyond Blue, and health workforce development and training.

The further funding secured for this and in following years is required to ensure that the multi-pronged initiative can be fully developed as a comprehensive sustainable programme.

Most people with depression can be treated in general practice, either by a General Practitioner alone, or, for more serious depression, in partnership with specialist mental health service providers.

A number of studies have shown benefit from treatment in a primary care setting, including a reduction in suicides. New Zealand research has shown that the major reasons for not seeking treatment relate to a lack of recognition by the individual of possible mental health problems and of the need for treatment. Another study found that common reasons for failing to seek help were doubts about the need for care or beliefs that they should be strong enough to manage without professional care.

These findings suggest that the major barriers to people seeking care arise from perceptions that their symptoms are not severe enough to warrant treatment. In turn this implies that educative campaigns that advise and inform people and their families about mental health problems, how to access health services, remove the stigma from seeking help and educate about the benefits and efficacy of early treatment for depression would be expected to produce benefits.

It is unusual for depression to be the sole problem presenting. It is usually co morbid with other problems, most commonly anxiety. World Health Organization (WHO) analysis shows that unipolar depressive disorders place an enormous burden on society and are ranked as the fourth leading contributor to the social and economic burden of disease.

And the outlook for the future has been assessed by the WHO. By the year 2020, if current trends for demographic and epidemiological transition continue, the burden of depression worldwide will be second only to ischaemic heart disease for disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost in both sexes. In economically developed regions, depression will by that time be the highest-ranking cause of the burden of disease. One United Kingdom estimate, for example, puts the cost at approx 0.6% of Gross Domestic Product or, in New Zealand terms, that would be equivalent to around NZ$750 million in 2005 terms.


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