New Zealand: Rural Mental Health Rates Soaring

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Fraser Clarke

Young Maoris living in rural New Zealand are at a significantly higher risk of developing mental health issues than any other group in the country.

According to new figures published during Mental Health Awareness Week, 70% of Kiwis have felt their stress levels increasing over the past five years - with this figure rising to a remarkable 85% for those between the ages of 18 and 39.

Perhaps even more worryingly however 56% of those surveyed do not feel prepared to talk about their mental health concerns, with half of that group putting this down to the stigma that still exists..

This stigma also explained why rates for Maoris, where traditional attitudes remain widely held, were so high.

13/41 (31%) of suicides in New Zealand’s rural Northland were Maoris, despite this group making up just 14% of the total population.

A combination of traditional attitudes and a lack of access to mental health support in more rural locations is proving deadly, with young Kiwi men - especially Maoris - having one of the highest suicide rates in the Western world.

That has prompted medical innovator and mental health campaigner, Dr Lance O’Sullivan, to speak out.

He said: “It’s no secret New Zealand is in the midst of a mental health epidemic, and this is a reminder that the effects of this are widespread.

“The shortage of mental health professionals across the board, means that there is no quick fix, however, mental health resources are increasingly being accessed remotely via online platforms or mobile applications. 

“If people are experiencing negative emotions or feeling isolated, they should always reach out to a trusted party, whether that be someone they know or a health professional. People should know that they’re not alone.”

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