Leading Tauranga psychologist Janet Peters says New Zealand needs to look at the recruitment issues the mental health sector is facing.

"In New Zealand and in other developed countries, recruitment is really difficult. It's really hard to get physical staff like doctors, occupational therapists and physios," Peters said.

"We need to get a lot more staff, a lot more training and recruit really good people but at the moment everyone is poaching from other countries including us."

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Peters works with the Ministry of Health's National Depression Initiative and spoke with the Bay of Plenty Times during Mental Health Awareness Week.

She said she was buoyed by the number of young people joining mental health services but this would not solve everything.

The right mental health worker is well-trained, empathetic, passionate and caring, Janet Peters says. Photo / George Novak
The right mental health worker is well-trained, empathetic, passionate and caring, Janet Peters says. Photo / George Novak

"We could have the best services in the world but if you've got an unforgiving, unsympathetic and uninformed community, you're pushing the proverbial uphill.

"New Zealanders need to be kind, be informed and care about your next door neighbour. If we all did that, that would help a lot of things."

She said 30 years in the industry has taught her communication was key.

"There's a saying, 'It's all about connection'. I think mental health and addiction problems are often about connection and the right person who is well-trained, empathetic, passionate and caring can work wonders. I've seen it and I really believe it."

Peters noted addiction funding, in particular, needed looking at as it received just a tenth of what mental health received.

She said more access to talking therapy and appropriate staff allocation was essential in combating the effects of addiction and mental health issues.

"We need Māori staff for Māori services, and Pasifika staff for Pasifika services and in those services, the people need to be collaborative and communicative because we are all in this together.

"People, if you give them the opportunity, they want to talk. But it has to be a really safe, comfortable environment to do that."

She said she looked forward to the release of the Government's inquiry into mental health and addiction which was set for late October.

Mental Health Awareness Week is next week and has been run annually by the Mental Health Foundation since 1993. This year the theme is: Let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing.

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Lifelink/Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• The Word
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.