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NZ's Mental Health Services Lead The World

New Zealand's Mental Health Services Lead The World


Health Minister Annette King has told a major mental health conference that New Zealand is at the forefront internationally in the provision of mental health services.

Mrs King, who today opened the Mental Health Services of Australian and New Zealand conference in Wellington, said New Zealand had much to be proud of in its mental health services, and deserved its international recognition.

Last year New Zealand was invited, as the only non-European invitee, to attend a European Union conference on mental health, and in May this year, Mrs King chaired a ministerial round table in Geneva at the World Health Assembly on mental health.

"The Assembly was both comforting and daunting," she said today. "Comforting in the sense of realising that New Zealand is at the forefront of improving mental health services, but daunting from the aspect of realising just how much there is to do.

"The importance of what we are doing cannot be overstated. There are few areas of the health sector more subject to misunderstanding, fear, and bigotry than mental illness."

Mrs King said New Zealand had been forced to acknowledge past failures, and had accepted the need to do things differently.

"Containment of large numbers of mentally ill people behind locked doors and barred windows is not a replacement for a mental health policy. Mental illness, like physical illness, exists within the community. The way ahead is to integrate mental health with other illnesses. To do otherwise is a violation of the basic human rights of patients."

Mrs King said it was apparent at last year's EU mental health conference that New Zealand was one of only a few countries putting significantly more money into mental health services.

"That has to be said with provisos, of course, because mental health services can only develop as quickly as we can develop trained staff.

"But Government funding has gone from just under $500 million in 1996/97 to a budget commitment of just under $800 million for 2003/2004 to support implementation of the national blueprint for mental health services. That represents 68 percent growth in seven years, a rate unheard of in other sectors of New Zealand government."

Ends

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