New Zealand

Former DHB psychologist claims chronic failure of mental health services

Healthcare professionals at the forefront of Aotearoa’s mental health crisis say the sector is “chronically underfunded” and fears disastrous consequences if it continues.

Dr. Marthinus Bekker quit his job as a clinical psychologist at the Auckland District Health Commission this month.

He said Checkpoint Staff burnout and an increase in the waiting list are major issues that need immediate attention.

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindillar

Dr. Becker has helped young Auckland citizens at high risk for six years.

“Mental health services are doing more with less effort. We received more referrals each month than before, but the number of clinicians who saw them remained the same.” He said.

The resource and burnout issues faced by Dr. Becker and his colleagues were not limited to his previous workplace, he said, but they were the reality of public mental health services throughout New Zealand. ..

Dr. Becker left Auckland DHB in early February. He belonged to a team of experts supporting young people with self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Before leaving, he investigated his colleagues using a scale known as the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory.

Approximately 75% of the people surveyed exceeded the high cutoff for burnout, he said.

Dr. Becker and his colleagues operate a 24-hour, 24/7 telephone line to help young people with chronic suicide or self-harm use their skills to deal with their emotions. I did.

“To perform such an on-call service required a significant amount of staff to do it, which was more difficult. In the last few years we have lost staff on that team and we Actually had to shut down the phone altogether … there weren’t enough people on the roster. “

He said access to public mental health services depends on the severity of mental distress.

According to him, the services operated by DHB were funded only to address moderate to severe problems.

Other services, such as Freshmind and School Guidance Councilors, are left to take care of young people who do not meet that standard.

“Entering public services sometimes comes to the point where our waiting list exceeds four to five months. These at least easily overlooked the case, but meet our criteria. It’s a young man who seems likely. “

It is a young man who has been waiting for nearly half a year to cope with growing mental difficulties and access to public mental health services.

At any given time, the service waiting list consisted of well over 100 young people.

“These are young people with serious anxiety, serious depression, who often affect their lives in different ways, and very often risk themselves.”

Dr. Becker often urged people to seek private care, but said it was expensive and could sometimes cost as much as $ 180 to $ 225 per hour.

His insights are not surprising to Sean Robinson, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation.

He said the $ 1.9 billion that grabbed the headline for Budget 2019 for mental health packages didn’t really make a difference to those working on the front lines.

“There’s nothing better for them on the ground. Staff turnover and staff burnout are huge. We’re listening to reports from people in the cribs in the office because there’s no space in the ward,” he says. I did.

“The situation is absolutely miserable and at stake.”

Robinson has accused the government of being too late to implement the 38 He Ara Oranga Mental Health Inquiry recommendations announced in 2018.

Two years later, he said he had no plans on how to implement these recommendations.

The Ministry of Health has also stopped reporting on the status of New Zealand’s mental health services. In short, there was no oversight of what was being offered and how effective these services were, Robinson said.

Dr. Bekker said the lack of resources in New Zealand’s mental health services would lead to more clinicians moving to private practice, making access to public services difficult.

He was afraid that continued shortages could have far more serious consequences.

“Things are improving”-Minister of Health

Health Minister Andrew Little said Checkpoint He regularly heard from mental health service workers and beneficiaries, “And the message I’m getting is that things are actually improving.”

“We have a four-year program. It’s 18 months as of the end of December. It’s planned to be two years at the end of June, but it was four years. The program. One of the big challenges we have. Is to increase the workforce, which will take time. “

According to Little, the recommendations for the He Ara Oranga report on mental health have begun to be implemented and will be completed throughout the four-year program.

“We have plans for each element of the HeAra Oranga report,” Little said, but admitted that New Zealand did not have a complete long-term plan for mental health services.

“It’s an issue addressed by the permanent Mental Health and Welfare Commission. It’s a priority for them, but it’s a priority for the Ministry of Health to continue working with the sector to put together that plan.”

He said it would take time to build up the workforce. “You have to start, and the problem identified is … not all is alleviated in the 18 months we’ve actually put money into recommendations.

“Is it still urgent? Of course. And are people still struggling to get the help they need? Yes, they are. We started, work is in progress We still have a way and nevertheless it is our top priority to accomplish such a thing. “

Few said that the process of rebuilding a system that was “ravaged for years” had begun.

He said the money for mental health promised in 2019 is there and will not be distributed anywhere else.

“Covid-19 adds new pressure and problems to new demands for mental health services and treatments, those who feel isolated and those who feel anxious, and these services and treatments. You need to make sure that is done, too.

“But what we do in mental health is not distracted by the deployment of the Covid-19 vaccination program or other health reforms we know we need to do. “

Telephone line up and running-Auckland DHB

Auckland DHB said in a statement that the Calicenter’s telephone line had been temporarily suspended, but is now restored and back in operation.

The mental health crisis line was said to have been running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Tracy Silva Garay, co-director of Mental Health and Addictions, said the safety and well-being of staff and the people they care for is a top priority.

“We take our obligations to them very seriously,” she said in a statement.

She said that as a result of the Covid-19 blockade, some people were waiting longer than DHB wanted to book mental health care.

She said the Cali Center had adopted new ways of working, including the use of telemedicine, which helped people not only access services but also reduce waiting times.

DHB is also looking for 13 new staff to work at the Cali Center.

Former DHB psychologist claims chronic failure of mental health services

SourceFormer DHB psychologist claims chronic failure of mental health services

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