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Sandie Ryan is no ordinary mental health worker. For an extended period she has worked in the mental health area both in NZ and the UK. A registered mental nurse, she currently works for Emerge Aotearoa, both in the Wellington and Kapiti areas.

Speaking at Plimmerton Rotary on 25th July, Ms Ryan noted that statistics from the World Health Organisation showed that world-wide, mental disorders accounted for 15% of all diseases. Also, depression would become the second most prevalent mental disease world-wide by 2020.

Ms Ryan explained that mental Health knew no boundaries. “It cuts across all classes in society, and all age groups. It is usually caused by a build-up of uncontrollable stress from an event such as loss of a loved one or break-up of a relationship, where the stress lasts beyond a reasonable time, for example longer than three months.”

In a recent case, a man aged 72 needed help for depression after his wife died suddenly.” He completely lost his sense of direction in life. He turned to his daughter for support and relied on her to the point where she needed some relief and also they both needed information on how to deal with the situation and move forward.”

The major issue in NZ was that the mental health system was outdated. “Frankly, the system is broken. What we need to do is to talk about mental health a whole lot more than we have in the past. The ever increasing influence of drugs, alcohol and gambling only make things worse and increase the need for our services.”

Ms Ryan believed that the Ministry of Health needed to amalgamate many of its mental health related services, improve the calibre of psychiatrists working for the Ministry, and change the way in which patients were being diagnosed. “It is not always helpful to put labels on mental health patients. This can tend to limit the treatment they receive. There is too much emphasis on diagnosis based on traditional systems such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

“In the mental health area we need more staff, more nurses, more doctors, more research, more and different medications, and better strategies. We need more younger psychiatrists with new ideas. New blood is needed urgently.”

In particular there was a need for the Ministry to take a more holistic view of each patient, to look at the bigger picture of how they arrived at their present state, and design treatment accordingly. There was a desperate need to deal with the causes of the disease and treat those.

People like Mike King, through his presentations at schools, represented a new way of dealing with the issues. ”Cyber bullying is increasing rapidly. We need to develop new ways of confronting threats such as this.

“There is just so much more to do.”

Mental Health Explosion

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