TV3 Story: Mental Health Funding

Last week I was interviewed for a piece TV3 journalist Kim Vinnell did on the state of our Mental Health services.  You can see video of the interview here: http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/story/mental-health-looking-at-the-bigger-picture-2015120918

TV3 were also good enough to let me post a guest blog.  To see the original post see: http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/story/opinion-the-right-prescription-2015121016

Opinion: The right prescription

Ask most people what the first thing someone should do if they’re depressed, or anxious and most will likely say: see your GP.

Likewise, most people would think the first treatment you’re likely to get offered would be medication, specifically anti-depressants.  At least in New Zealand, you’d be right.  But you might be surprised to know not only is this not good practice, it may also be unhelpful.

The two big mental health research and good practice agencies in the world, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence in the UK (or “NICE” which is a great acronym), and the American Psychological Association in the USA ( the “APA”) are clear that the first line treatment for depression and anxiety, especially in the mild to moderate range, should be talk therapy.

Not only that, but there is also a lot of studies that show that most of the anti-depressant medications aren’t very effective for mild to moderate range depression and anxiety, and certainly not as helpful as talking with a psychotherapist or clinical psychologist.  Not only that but when therapy is combined with medication for severe depression, both in combination are more effective than either on their own.

This is why people like me get so fired up about the lack of funded and affordable talk therapy options available in New Zealand right now.

It’s great we’re starting to break down the stigma so we can start to talk openly about how many people struggle with mental illness.  We now also need to be having a public conversation about what effective treatment looks like, and demanding it be appropriately funded, just like any other proven health treatment.

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