Te Hiringa Mahara welcomes Health Quality and Safety Commission report on the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on Aotearoa

Te Hiringa Mahara Chief Executive Karen Orsborn has welcomed today’s release of the second report of the Health Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission) on the impact of COVID-19 on health with its dedicated chapter on the impacts on people’s mental health and use of mental health services.

“As the Commission notes, the arrival of the Omicron variant has exposed long-standing, fundamental weaknesses in our health system. There is little capacity in the mental health system to cope with shocks, there are entrenched inequities in access to services and better outcomes experienced by Māori, Pacific and disabled peoples.

“In the face of resource constraints and the specific challenges of the pandemic, communities and service providers have innovated – doing more with less and using online and telehealth delivery to reach people in need.”

Te Hiringa Mahara’s recent mental health service and addiction service monitoring report, Te Huringa: Change and Transformation, highlighted that mental health services and addiction services had maintained pre-pandemic levels of services, despite the disruption and competing demands from the pandemic response.  Both the Commission and Te Hiringa Mahara highlight that some service users still experienced barriers to treatment, and too many of those who seek help do not receive the care that they need. The use of compulsory treatment and seclusion remains high and inequitable.

“We support the Commission’s report being used by decision makers in Government and the mental health system to accelerate improvement to services and contribute to better mental health outcomes. We support the call for appropriate funding of health services with a focus on efficiency and equity and would add that access to a relevant range of mental health and addiction treatment options is also needed.

“To deliver the services needed, given the real workforce constraints, will require transformation of the way we recruit, train, support and deploy the mental health and addiction services workforce. In short, greater employment of specialist, lived experience, peer, and community support will be needed.

“Looking beyond the findings of the Commission’s report, we know that improved services alone will not be enough to address the mental health and wellbeing impacts of the pandemic. A range of factors affect people’s mental health and wellbeing, and we know that the impacts of the pandemic have not fallen evenly across Aotearoa.”

To better understand the forces behind the impacts that the Commission has highlighted, Te Hiringa Mahara is releasing a series of reports on the wellbeing impacts of COVID-19, examining the pandemic experiences of different communities. Our next such report will examine the impacts on the wellbeing of older people in Aotearoa. Te Hiringa Mahara will also be releasing its updated mental health and addiction service monitoring report by 30 June 2023.