Social contact vital for mental health
"Connect", the theme of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, has encouraged communities to explore the stigma associated with mental health conditions.
Mental Health Awareness Week finishes on Sunday.
Southern District Health Board director of mental health, addictions and intellectual disabilities Dr James Knight said that in the past decade, mental health care had moved to a community-based model.
"For this model to be successful you need a community that works in partnership with service providers to create a place where people with mental health issues can live and feel accepted."
Dr Knight described mental health as a "continuum" which could be illustrated in the shape of a triangle.
"The pointy part at the top of the triangle represents the small number of severe and persistent or sometimes complex cases . . . but the base is very broad," he said.
"That means there is a continuum of mental health problems from mild depression and anxiety to those who can't live outside of institutionalisation."
The Ministry of Health has combined efforts with community organisations to encourage New Zealanders who are feeling isolated or lonely to connect with their communities.
Mental Health Foundation director of policy and development Hugh Norriss said connecting with others was a powerful tool that contributed to feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
"The recent Wellbeing Index showed that only 30 per cent of Kiwis are connecting socially with others more than once a week," Mr Norriss said.
"Many people are inadvertently isolating themselves because they have so many competing demands on their time, but the effects of loneliness on both physical and mental health are too serious to ignore."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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