Mental health: stress, pressure, challenge and support

We all face challenges to our mental health and wellbeing. Emotions such as grief and sadness are part of being human and tough times are part of life’s course.

Most stressful life events*

The top ten most stressful adult life events are considered to be: death of a spouse or child, divorce, marital separation, imprisonment, death of a close family member, personal injury or illness, marriage, dismissal from work, marital reconciliation and retirement.

Mental Health NZ (mentalhealth.org.nz) estimates that nearly half of New Zealanders will live with mental illness and/or addiction at some point during their lifetime, one-in-five suffering each year, with their physical health poorer than the general population.

Under pressure

Working closely with local social and health agencies, Community Networks have started a biannual snapshot survey of social services in the Upper Clutha. CNW Manager Kate Murray shares initial conclusions:

‘Social services play a vital role in our community, supporting people and families having a difficult time. Yet many services are operating under funding, demand and staff recruitment pressures, dealing with increasingly complex client needs, often with nowhere to refer them.

The most common difficulties among local clients are poor mental health, financial hardship, housing costs, and poor social and personal relationships.

Nearly every service reported having clients significantly impacted by poor mental health, yet the most commonly reported gap was mental health services, with demand for local counselling and mental health services outstripping resources for supply.’

National challenges

These disturbing findings are replicated nationally with Mental Health Commissioner, Kevin Allan reporting in 2018 that New Zealand needs to broaden its focus from mental illness and addiction to mental well being and recovery (hdc.org.nz), with growing numbers of Kiwis accessing health services for mental health and addiction issues, but with these services under pressure and many needs left unmet.

Often services are only available to people once their condition deteriorates. The main treatment options (medication and therapy) don’t address the broader social factors that help people and support their recovery, including factors such as housing, income, education, social and cultural connections.

To help stay mentally well the Mental Health Foundation suggests:

How to find local support

Community Networks Wanaka is acutely aware of the increasing demand for support services locally and has compiled a helpful reference guide to local counselling and mental health providers, answering practical questions such as, ‘how to find a doctor or mental health professional’ http://communitynetworks.co.nz/counselors-support-details/. They also hold a fund that is available to help with the costs of seeing a counselor.

The Wanaka Mental Health Peer Support Group meets for a monthly walk along the lake and for tea and a chat every second Tuesday, offering a safe space to discuss any mental health struggles, free from judgement.

Further information: Community Networks Wanaka, 73 Brownston St. Tel: 03 443 7799, www.communitynetworks.co.nz.

*Source: the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

Article written by Margaret Batty.