The Government is boosting mental health funding in Auckland amid growing demand for services as people grapple with the pressures of the latest Covid-19 lockdown.
Majority of the $5.6 million in additional funding, announced today by Health Minister Andrew Little, will go towards Auckland's three district health boards for mental health and addiction services, with $1m of it allocated for a Mental Health Foundation preventative campaign.
Mental Health Foundation CEO Shaun Robinson says they will make the most of every cent as the two health crises of Covid-19 and mental health collide, but far more will be needed in the long run.
"For years we already had an ongoing crisis in mental health, neglected for decades by governments of all colours.
"This is bringing together the two biggest issues in New Zealand health, and we need to be in it for the long run."
Auckland has been at level 3 restrictions or higher for 83 days now, protecting the rest of the country as much as possible from the spread of the devastating Delta outbreak.
Auckland DHBs have already reported a rise in mental health and addiction services, but it is also the less acute situations that needed to be addressed.
Robinson said helplines have seen spikes in demand, particularly around alert level announcements, with much heightened anxiety, fear and even anger.
More generally, it was expected people would be feeling a strong range of emotions from anger, sadness, frustration and lethargy, Robinson said.
"It is all quite normal, on the face of it. But with this prolonged lockdown some people are really struggling.
"I wouldn't say it is more people becoming mentally unwell, rather people languishing and experiencing difficult emotions.
"While for those who were already struggling, this would not have helped, especially given restrictions on access to services."
The foundation's funding would go towards a preventative campaign, helping people develop behaviours and habits, reframe the "terrible situation", to cope with the reality of living with Covid-19.
"Things like just getting outside in nature, catching up with friends and family, learning something new. It is something that should be happening regardless of Covid.
"I don't think it will create more acute mental health unwellness, but there is the danger in the long haul living with Covid in our lives."
Health Minister Andrew Little said the funding, announced today, would go help Aucklanders experiencing mental distress get support when they needed it.
It would also fund peer support through telehealth services, access to online parenting support packages through the Positive Parenting Programme including the Fear-Less programme, specifically designed to help children and young people get on top of anxiety.
"The ongoing Covid-19 disruptions has meant Auckland has had to endure weeks of uncertainty and stress, while largely being confined to their homes," Little said.
"School, work, study and normal life has been disrupted. Connecting with friends and family has been difficult and that can have a very real effect on wellbeing.
"So Auckland can continue to do its part to protect the team of five million this Government wants to ensure when they ask for support, it's there when they need it."
The announcement follows the $1.4m Youth Mental Wellbeing Fund in September.
The $5.6m is made up of existing health allocations and the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.