Inequality is bad for mental health and there’s an overemphasis on trying to cure mental illness as we would physical illness, the United Nations has said. At the Christchurch Methodist Mission, we couldn’t agree more.
Austerity, inequality, discrimination and job insecurity are bad for mental health and governments need to counteract them in order to stop the prevalence of mental illness. The best way to invest in mental health is to create a supportive environment in all settings, including the family and workplace. Therapeutic services are needed but shouldn’t be based on an excessive biomedical model, the UN says.
At the Christchurch Methodist Mission, we’ve seen that social Isolation and lack of community impair mental wellness.
“We are less likely to have a neighbour that we can have a natter to these days and there are fewer opportunities for us to feel connected,” our Community Manager, Andrea Wilson-Tukaki says. More and more people feel alone.
“If we are able to grow strong community, we are more likely to be able to support one another with early intervention, potentially lessening the need for more aggressive intervention. Inequity and discrimination are contributors to the mental wellbeing of people. If we were able to address these issues we may have smaller numbers of people with mental illness, or fewer episodes of people feeling unwell,” she says.
We live in an era in which not feeling mentally healthy is seen as a problem that needs to be fixed, when the reality is that it is ok not to feel ok at times in our life, and to support one another through these times, whether that’s as a friend, neighbour, colleague or whānau, Andrea says.
To improve mental health, the report says we need to reduce inequality and social exclusion, improve infant and school programmes, intervene quickly to support children in danger, have stronger unions, and better social welfare. CMM’s involvement with Mana Ake, the new in schools wellbeing programme, is a good example.
Mana Ake (Stronger for Tomorrow) provides support for children aged five to 12 across Canterbury. By putting kaimahi (wellbeing workers) into schools for one-on-one and group sessions with children, and their whanau we can help them deal with anxiety, depression and other wellbeing and mental health issues.
The Christchurch Methodist Mission agrees with the UN that less inequality and discrimination would lead to a fall in the rate of mental illness.