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Source: Te Pou

An editorial published in the New Zealand Medical Journal asserts that our current understanding of the prevalence of mental health conditions and substance use in Aotearoa New Zealand is not adequate for guiding investment in mental health and addiction services and supports.

Researchers from Te Pou, a national workforce centre for mental health, addiction and disability, and the Department of Māori Indigenous Health Innovation (MIHI) at University of Otago, Christchurch, are advocating for an up-to-date understanding of the mental health and problematic substance use of New Zealanders.

Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Survey, was a landmark epidemiological study, but it is now nearly 20 years old,” says Rae Lamb, Chief Executive of Te Pou. “Since it was conducted, we have seen fundamental changes to life which are believed to be having profound effects. We need up-to-date good information about this so we can ensure the right services and supports are provided and precious health dollars are spent wisely.”

The editorial published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal explains the importance of prevalence data for informing decisions on what services and supports are needed, for whom, and where health investment should be spent, highlighting the strengths and limitations of current data.

“We are working with partners to ensure a Te Tiriti o Waitangi and lived experience approach to psychiatric epidemiology from the outset, through design, implementation and the dissemination of findings,” says co-author and Māori psychiatrist Dr Cameron Lacey, Associate Professor at MIHI. “Robust and contemporary population health data is crucial to upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi and ensuring an equitable mental health and addiction system.”

Lead author, Dr Helen Lockett, says, “While people have told us that they generally support an in-depth survey, there are multiple perspectives to consider. We are proposing a values-led evaluative framework to guide the research process.”

The knowledge generated from this research would bring much value to Aotearoa, and particularly to people with the highest needs or who are currently ‘not seen’. It would inform and enable fair and equitable investments in support.

Visit the Te Pou website to find out more about understanding population mental health and substance use data


The paper, ‘Whakairo: carving a values-led approach to understand and respond to the mental health and substance use of the New Zealand population’ is published in the New Zealand Medical Journal