Mental health: New Zealand's self harm hospitalisations rising

The number of Kiwis who have been hospitalised after intentionally self harming is on the rise.

Documents obtained by Newshub show in 2009, 2808 people were discharged from hospital following self harm. In 2017 there were 4878.

The rate per 100,000 people recorded has jumped from 68 people to 93 over the same time period.

Number of Kiwis hospitalised after intentional self harming.
Number of Kiwis hospitalised after intentional self harming. Photo credit: Newshub.

The documents also reveal the number of New Zealanders presenting to mental health and addiction services has risen from 3.2% of the population in 2009 to 4.7% in 2017.

In 2017, nearly 227,000 people presented to mental health services, up from 139,000 in 2009.

Infometrics Senior Economist Brad Olsen told Newshub the figures show the mental health crisis is by no means slowing down, in some cases it's getting worse.

"We need more time, money and resources into this and we need it done now," Olsen said.

"This is not something that can wait, we've got communities that are crying out for that help. We also need to get it into those communities that need it, central Government is great at holding the money but more and more we need to get that into the local communities, the DHBs and they need those resources to help those people in their own communities."

The Government has delayed its response to the mental health inquiry twice, so it will be announced close to the release of the Budget on Thursday. The response will be released on Wednesday.

In December 2018 the inquiry's findings were released. The inquiry found the annual cost of serious mental illness, including addiction, was an estimated $12 billion, and it recommended urgently implementing a national suicide prevention strategy. It also described New Zealand's Mental Health Act as "inadequate" and  it's "particularly problematic and outdated in its approach". The estimated reduction in life expectancy of people with severe mental health or addiction challenges is 25 years.

Newshub understands a suicide prevention target will not be included in the Government's response.

Health Minister David Clark is defending the delay and says action will be swift.

"We will be moving promptly to ensure we are providing a response. The challenges in mental health and addiction are built up over many years and it will require considerable and ongoing investment to address the challenges we have today."

National claims the Government will fund a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

It also claims the Mental Health and Wellbeing bill will be introduced to Parliament shortly as a category two piece of legislation so it will be passed this year.

Olsen says it's a problem that spans more than one Government.

"I don't think anyone's addressed it enough from both sides of the political divide over a number of years. We know the numbers have gotten worse over the last couple of years, but they've never been good to start with," he said.

"New Zealand's got the worse suicide rate in the developed world, I think that's something everyone needs to be addressing and we're just not. We've got New Zealanders that aren't here today because of that and we've got others who are in need of a lot more help than they're getting and that means they're not getting the help they deserve."

The New Zealand Medical Association General Practitioner Council Chair Dr Jan White told Newshub currently it's really hard to get access to psychological support.

"The public mental health services are well and truly overloaded and the private ones are really costly. When we think about equity in healthcare and doing the best for our patients, it's really hard for patients that don't have any health insurance," she said.

Dr White is hopeful the Mental Health Inquiry will deliver useful things that can be put into practice.

"People who are struggling financially, we just cannot give them the help they need in a timely fashion. Investment in this part of the health sector would certainly be hugely helpful.

"It's a real scourge on our patients, they suffer. It's really hard to be suffering mentally and not be able to access the help you need."

Newshub previously revealed 3353 children aged under 14 were prescribed antidepressants through community-based providers (pharmacies) in 2018.

Out of the 20 district health boards (DHBs) in New Zealand, 13 have more than 100 young patients who were prescribed the medication.

Newshub also revealed counselling use by students at New Zealand's universities has grown 25 percent since 2015.

Where to find help and support:

  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737

  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat

  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666

  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)