Support staff brought in to bolster Whakatāne mental health services after the Whakaari /White Island eruption needed to stay longer, counsellors say.
The Eastern Bay Primary Health Alliance's mental health team supported victims of the eruption, first responders, whānau and friends through debriefs and subsequently took on an influx of referrals.
Last week the Rotorua Daily Post reported the team was one of two finalists up for the New Zealand Primary Healthcare Awards best mental health programme prize.
Jamie Sullivan, who leads the mental health team, said his staff catered for a rush of patients after the Edgecumbe flood in 2017, as they did again after December's eruption.
Both times, the team got "a lot of external support" from services outside the area but typically "they [outside support staff] all kind of come in and then they all disappear" he told the Rotorua Daily Post.
"Once the initial incident has passed a little bit, we have a bit of a delay and then referrals start to come in later on."
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He said he was "very grateful" for the help from outside of the district in both instances, but, in his opinion, the timing of back-up resourcing needed improving.
Sullivan said sometimes it was weeks before people decided to get mental health help after a traumatic event.
"Once things settle down a bit, they begin to realise the emotional impact that's it's had."
He said having outsiders back-up eastern Bay of Plenty services long-term would allow frontline mental health workers to have their own needs cared for too.
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In a written statement, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board's Whakaari recovery manager and emergency planning team lead Josephine Peters said the board was "meeting regularly with community mental health providers in the eastern Bay of Plenty to gauge the level of need".
"While there has been an increase in people seeking support in relation to the eruption since December 9, at this stage our services have capacity to meet that need.
"We are closely monitoring the situation as we are aware that people respond to trauma in different ways and the level of support required may change in coming months."
The health board said it was "important for people to seek help if their distress or stress symptoms are escalating".
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said staff were "working with all District Health Boards to develop psychosocial recovery plans in the event of a disaster".
"These plans should all include plans for the initial response and also ongoing recovery following an event."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE : 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE : 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP : 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202
EASTERN BAY OF PLENTY SUPPORT
&bull In crisis? Call Bay of Plenty District Health Board Mental Health Crisis Team Tauranga 0800 800 508 or eastern Bay of Plenty 0800 774 545.
• Call Māori Health Services, Whakatāne Hospital on 306 0954 for information on kaupapa Māori support providers in the eastern Bay of Plenty.