Community mental health services still strong

00:00, Aug 19 2014

Manawatu people seeking help for mental health issues can still have faith in community services, despite several failings uncovered at the Palmerston North Hospital mental health ward, a community support worker says.

The Manawatu Standard revealed on Saturday details of an investigation into the MidCentral District Health Board mental health service sparked by what it described as "two apparently self-inflicted deaths" of a similar nature in April and May.

The deaths raised concerns about underlying problems within the service. Several failings, including a passive, complacent culture, a lack of leadership, a lack of clarity in processes, a confusing service structure and inadequate facilities were uncovered in Ward 21 in a draft of the external review obtained by the Standard.

Mental health community support worker Dean Black, who suffered from mental illness for several years, said the information about the ward could scare people and put them off coming forward to seek help, but that community services in the region could help.

"I think we're pretty strong with what we do in Palmerston North, I think we've got a really good system in place," he said.

"Recovering in the community is strong everywhere you go . . . the people with experience in Palmerston North are really good and really passionate about helping people out."


The findings from the MidCentral review were concerning, Black said.

"I'm a big believer that community-based recovery is the way to go and if we're doing our job out there, there should be less people going in to Ward 21 . . . if we could keep people out in the community and not accessing Ward 21, that would be the best thing."

Black said lack of awareness of the services as well as "self stigma" were barriers for people in accessing community support.

He encouraged people not to be afraid and to take that first step in seeking help.

"I think it's well worth trying these things because being around people that are in similar situations to yourself can make things a lot more comforting and the support is just amazing, and that's speaking first hand."

MidCentral District Health Board chief medical officer Kenneth Clark told the Standard last week the DHB accepted there were matters in the service that required improvement for it to become safer and better.

Clark said that the DHB wanted to wait for the report to be finalised before making any further comments on likely changes.

The review is set to be finalised within the next few weeks.

- A community mental health directory is available at

Manawatu Standard