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More funding to support rural mental wellness [14.6.17]

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman

Minister for Health

Hon Nathan Guy

Minister for Primary Industries

14 June 2017 Media Statement

More funding to support rural mental wellness

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have committed another joint funding boost to rural mental health.

The Ministers committed $500,000 for Rural Mental Wellness at the opening of the Fieldays Rural Health Hub earlier today.

It will go towards 20 workshops for rural health professionals treating people at risk of suicide, continued support for the rural Clinical Champions and Medical Director, as well as support aimed at younger rural workers.

“The Government recognises that rural life goes in cycles, and we want to support our rural communities through the ups and downs,” says Dr Coleman.

“The Rural Mental Wellness initiative is administered by Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand and Rural Support Trusts.

“It’s the right mix of further raising awareness of mental health issues within rural communities, coupled with practical help to improve the skills of the health professionals who work alongside the rural sector.

“This additional funding will help maintain the momentum and builds on the investment the Government has made in previous years.

“Cabinet will soon consider a new mental health strategy, which will take into account the needs of our rural communities.”

Minister Guy says farmers tend to be self-reliant and don’t always like asking for help.

“Farmers are really good at looking after the land, animals and machinery, but they aren’t traditionally as good at looking after themselves,” says Mr Guy.

“Due to its very nature, farming can be a very isolated occupation. Farmers often spend long hours on the farm, and aren’t easily able to socialise regularly with others compared to those who live in built-up areas.

“It’s important that farmers and their families know they aren’t alone if they need someone to talk to. There is a wide range of good advice and support from organisations like Rural Support Trusts, Farmstrong, and Dairy NZ.”

Notes to Editors:

Dr Coleman and Mr Guy have made a joint funding announcement for Rural Mental Wellness in 2016 and 2015.

At Fieldays 2015, the $500,000 was split between Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHÂNZ) and the Rural Support Trusts and was used for strengthening capabilities in the rural sector which included:

• Recruiting almost 80 new facilitators for the Rural Support Trusts;

• Ensuring most Rural Support Trusts have designated rural mental health coordinators;

• Providing mental health training to the facilitators and coordinators;

• Appointing 15 mental health clinical champions to help improve referral pathways and;

• Enabling RHÂNZ to deliver 42 suicide prevention workshops across rural New Zealand. Around 900 people attended and have been trained, including health professionals, police, social workers, and school counsellors.

In 2016 the funding was extended for another year. The second phase of the Rural Mental Wellness initiative was $600,000 and went towards:

• Ten more suicide prevention workshops in rural areas not yet covered;

• The development of a new workshop programme focused on managing suicidal patients in a rural setting;

• Funding the Medical Director;

• RHÂNZ starting work on a longer-term approach to improving rural mental health outcomes;

• Upskilling 0800 operators so they are better equipped to respond to distressed farmers and their families;

• Two coordinators (North Island and South Island) to work in partnership with Rural Support Trusts to strengthen referral networks;

• Ensure the majority of Rural Support Trusts have designated rural mental health coordinators and;

• Providing mental health training to the facilitators and coordinators.

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