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Urgent need to address unmet mental health needs for Pasifika

One in 5 New Zealanders live with mental illness or addiction in a given year, and for Pasifika people, it’s 1 in 4. 173,933 New Zealanders accessed mental health and addiction services in 2016/17 – a 73% growth in access over the last decade, whilst funding increased by 40%.

The Health and Disability Commissioner protects the rights of consumers and monitors and advocates for improvements to mental health and addiction services. Their latest report highlights some significant unmet needs for Pasifika people.

The report acknowledges that Māori and Pasifika people are more at risk than other population groups with higher unmet needs for consumers and their families within mental health services.

Pasifika people have the longest average stay in inpatient care compared to every other group, and the use of seclusion for Pasifika people in services has increased. Seclusion is the practice of isolating (and sometimes restraining) distressed patients in locked rooms as a de-escalation tool – which can be traumatising for both consumers and staff. Rates of seclusion have reduced significantly over time across New Zealand, but for Pasifika consumers have risen consecutively over the last three years.

If you want to know more about seclusion from people with lived experience, watch this training video called “Opening Doors” by Awareness: Canterbury Action on Mental Health and Addictions.

Le Va advocates that the practice of seclusion contravenes basic human rights and we strongly support the elimination of seclusion within New Zealand mental health services. We’ve joined the national collaborative led by the Health Quality and Safety Commission and Te Pou, to focus on a quality improvement approach to eliminating the need for seclusion and increasing safety.

We want to ensure culturally safe approaches for Pasifika consumers and their families and we’ll be looking at how we can do this over the next few months. Our aim is to shift mindsets from constraint to compassion, engaging consumers to build trust, and support alternative methods to seclusion.

If you want to let us know your views, or join us in the conversation, join us at our GPS (Growing Pasifika Solutions) Satellite Seminars and sign up to our newsletter for our latest updates.

 

About the author •
Dr Monique Faleafa is Le Va's founding Chief Executive, appointed in 2013. She has served Pacific communities in the not-for-profit sector, district health boards, academia and social services for nearly 20 years as a clinician, and as an advocate for improving health and social outcomes for Pacific communities.