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Anderton: Canterbury Mental Health Centre

Jim Anderton speech to Canterbury Mental Health Education and Research Centre

Good evening. It is pleasure to be with you tonight.

Back in March, I launched, in Parliament, the Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

I started my remarks by saying that five hundred lives a year - nearly ten a week - end in New Zealand through suicide - more than are killed on our roads each year.

You could have heard a pin drop.

Because when confronted with the reality of the trauma and the loss and the suffering, even the most distracted of my colleagues knew that something had to be done about it.

It was only a few years ago that I used to criticise the way the health system failed to respond to high risk of actual suicide attempts.

When someone made a suicide attempt, their stomach would be pumped or their wounds patched up and they were sent home.

But the bit that was broken wasn't even treated at all.

We know that mental illness, particularly depression, is one of the biggest risk factors for suicide.

We know that the risk of suicide is increased twenty-fold for those with major depression.

Many of you will be aware that, according to the World Health Organisation, mental illness accounts for 15 percent of the total burden of disease in the developed world, with depression set to become the second leading cause of disability in the world by 2020.

In New Zealand an estimated 20 percent of the population have a mental health or addiction episode at some time in their lives and 3 percent are estimated to be severely affected.

It stands to reason that encouraging people to seek help for mental illness and to support friends and family when they are distressed will make a significant contribution to harm prevention.

And it stands to reason that reducing, and eventually eliminating, the stigma around mental illness will perhaps be one of our greatest contributions.

For this to happen, there must be access to high quality information, education and support.

I have been particularly focussed on reducing the terrible toll alcohol and other drugs take on individuals and society.

A couple of years ago, we got the police to fund a drug harm index.

The study concluded that illicit drug use caused social costs estimated at $1.3 billion a year. Police said that illicit drug seizures that year may have prevented about another third again of harm.

And we know that the social cost of alcohol misuse to be between $1.5 billion and $2.4 billion a year.

I was recently asked in Parliament if I was satisfied with the availability of alcohol and other drug services in New Zealand. My answer was an emphatic "no".

We need more AOD services and a wider range of services that reflect the various needs of those who require such assistance.

Facilities and service like those provided by the Centre give positive options for people needing to deal with their mental health issues.

And it's important that you have realised that it's not only the client that is affected, but also the client's family and their communities, including their employers.

There is growing evidence on the benefits flowing from an individual's treatment.

Treating clients benefits them personally, but it can also be a positive catalyst for change for people around them.

Major achievements have been made in the area of Mental Health.

These include greater access to specialist services, increased clinical capacity, steady progress in moving people from institutional to community based care, and a rapid growth in the provision of services by NGOs and Maori mental health providers.

This Government has almost doubled funding for the sector in the last ten years.

The NGO sector is now integral to the development of the mental health and addiction treatment sector.

In fact, service provision by NGOs now accounts for around 30 percent of mental health service funding.

The primary care sector is also crucial to meeting communities' mental health and addiction needs.

The sector has for many people been their first point of contact with the health system.

There are opportunities to improve responsiveness, and government, for the first time, has extended the mental health strategy to cover primary mental health.

These opportunities are being realised with the development of a range of primary mental health care initiatives in the PHOs.

By early 2009 primary mental health initiatives, designed to make talking therapies and other psycho-social interventions more accessible, will be in place in all 80 PHOs.

At the local level, we had a problem at the Youth Court in Christchurch where four out of five youth offenders have a drug or alcohol problem.

Police and other agencies identified residential facilities as vital in the battle to keep individuals and the community safe and to discourage re-offending.

We were proud to front up with over half a million dollars in annual operating funding and a quarter million dollar one-off capital expenditure payment, for the South Island's new Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Service for young people, which opened in February this year.

And I want to congratulate the Mental Health Education and Resource Centre Trust for the important work you do in ensuring that coordinated services are provided in a way that encourages community participation and promotes autonomy of individuals and groups.

You are a clear example of positive community action.

Working together enables those involved to offer improved and creative services.

Not only by sharing physical resources and knowledge, but by creating an environment for networking, education and promotion to the wider community.

None of this work would be possible without the hard work and commitment of Chris Taua and the voluntary board and officers of the Trust - and Manager Len West.

I would also like to acknowledge the ongoing support which my colleague Tim Barnett has provided towards the Trust.

All contributors deserve thanks and acknowledgement for their support for, and dedication to, the Centre.

These include the Canterbury District Health Board, PATHS Partners - MSD, Work and Income, Pegasus Health, The Canterbury Community Trust and the Christchurch City Council.

This centre is based on the principles of community, caring, cooperation, and sharing.

You have the strength to care, and the commitment to do something about it.

I salute your work and thank you on behalf of the community you serve.

Thank you.


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