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National mental health & wellbeing study underway

National mental health and wellbeing study underway

A survey of households in New Zealand to gather information about the numbers of people over the ages of 16 years who have, or who have had, a mental illness (including an alcohol or other drug addiction) commences this week. This is the first time a national survey to gather information about how many people experience problems with their mental health has been conducted in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey will collect data from 12,000 randomly selected households for the Mental Health Epidemiology Study (MHES). The survey, which will include interviews with 2500 Maori people and 2500 Pacific people, will take almost one year to complete and the final report on the Study will be published by mid 2006.

The MHES is part of an international survey programme run for the World Health Organisation by its World Mental Health Initiative Coordinating Centre in Harvard University. More than 25 other countries have already surveyed their populations and are starting to publish their results.

Todd Krieble, Policy and Service Development Manager, Mental Health Directorate, Ministry of Health says the MHES is a key priority of the New Zealand government's Mental Health Research and Development Strategy because both mental health and social service initiatives require good statistical information on which to base planning.

"New Zealand has never before surveyed its population to establish the incidence and prevalence of mental illness, the extent of the disability associated with the illness, and what services are seen by people with mental illness as being helpful in their recovery. The information gathered from this survey will help government shape strategies for the development of mental health services in the future," he says.

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The Principal Researcher for MHES is Professor Mark Oakley-Browne, University of Auckland and Monash University. Co-Principal Researchers are Dr. Elisabeth Wells, Bio-Statistician and Mental Health Researcher, Otago University; Professor Mason Durie, Massey University, for Maori, and Dr. Colin Tukuitonga, World Health Organisation, for Pacific people.

Key facts on the MHES

The Mental Health Epidemiology Study (MHES) is sponsored by the Mental Health Research and Development Strategy Steering Committee which is a collaboration of the Ministry of Health (Mental Health Directorate), the Mental Health Commission and the Health Research Council of New Zealand. The Health Research Council of New Zealand administers the MHES project.

Funding for the MHES is predominantly from the Ministry of Health, with additional funding contributed by Health Research Council of New Zealand and the Alcohol Liquor Advisory Council of New Zealand.

Contracts for the study are held by UniServices (University of Auckland) and National Research Bureau.

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