Wellington: New Zealand’s mental health system, and the people working in it, are on the brink of collapse, according to industry insiders on Friday.
Problems include lack of inpatient beds, ad hoc rationing of services, and clinician burnout, according to researchers from the University of Otago who published an editorial on Friday in the New Zealand Medical Journal.
“The New Zealand mental health workforce is under extreme pressure,” the editorial said, adding that the 2018 national inquiry into mental health and addiction has done little to fix this issue, Xinhua news agency reported.
Although the funded mental healthcare workforce grew by over 10 per cent between 2018 and 2022, more than 10 per cent of positions are vacant and almost half of the workforce are aged over 50, with one fifth above 60, it said, adding that the sector’s workforce shortages will get worse as those workers retire.
In the editorial, three mental health researchers recommend that as two-thirds of the country’s mental health workforce are females, recruitment and retention efforts should be focused on women.
They also suggest an apprenticeship model for mental health care assistants be developed, to recruit people without a tertiary health qualification, but with other relevant experience, such as lived experience of mental illness or deep understanding of the Maori and Pacific islander cultures.