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Greater support for people in mental health crisis

30 January 2020

An increase in mental health related emergency ambulance responses is cause for great concern according to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP).

A recent report released by St John, states that over the past six months St John has responded to nearly 20,000 people who have been experiencing some form of mental health crisis.

Chair of the RANZCP New Zealand National Committee – Tu Te Akaaka Roa, Dr Mark Lawrence, said: ‘An increase of 10% in mental health related incidents is a clarion call to the mental health sector’.

‘These statistics are a clear wake up call to improve our mental health services to avoid people reaching crisis point. Our whānau should not be reaching this level of crisis.’

‘There is no denying, as a nation, we need to work together to address this. St John can’t do it alone, nor can whānau, nor can psychiatrists. Together however, we can – and must – make a real difference.’

The RANZCP emphasised that the best way to combat this increase in mental health call outs was for emergency and mental health services to work together.

‘Let’s work together’, said Dr Susanna Galea-Singer, Chair of the New Zealand Faculty of Addiction Psychiatry Subcommittee.

‘We need to do more to prevent people reaching crisis point and this can be done by “getting the right people, in the right places, at the right time”.

‘In practice, this means seeking interventions proven to work – whether they are new and innovative or tried and trusted – then putting them into use with the funding required for their success.

‘Community and peer support are crucial elements in the mix’, said Dr Galea-Singer.

‘Today’s mental health services are facing more complex cases: patients with multiple health issues. This makes service provision particularly challenging.’

Dr Lawrence also affirmed that whilst the figures are concerning the situation is not entirely hopeless and there is still much we can all do.

‘Our first step should be ensuring we keep a clear person-centred/whānau-centred approach.

‘Viewing health and mental health holistically, there are successful, cost-effective interventions that improve access, that work for Māori, and that can prevent issues from escalating to a crisis state.’

Dr Lawrence thanked St John for sharing these important statistics adding that they are an important reminder of the urgent work facing us as a nation committed to caring for our own.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or


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