Friday, January 16, 2009

Mental health - or lack of it

In 2007, 6425 people spent time in adult mental health units according to the latest report from the Director of Mental Health, David Chaplow. That's around 153 per 100,000 mean population.

40 years ago, 12,096 people or 443 per 100,000 mean population spent time in a psychiatric hospital. That means the rate of institutionalised treatment has dropped by two thirds.

In the same year that over twelve thousand people were treated in a psychiatric hospital, only 2,000 were in jail.

Well-meaning attempts to keep people out of mental institutions has partially resulted in institutionalising them elsewhere.

Suicide rates, also mentioned in the report, have increased over a similar forty year period (although are now trending down).

1971 238 8.0 per 100,000

2006 524 12.2 per 100,000

Incidentally the suicide rate for Maori in 1971 was very, very low - 1.7 for males and 2.6 for females. In 2006 it was 17.2 per 100,000 population - higher than for non-Maori.

Finally we can measure mental health from a social security perspective.

At the end of the 1970 financial year, 14,218 people relied on an invalid or sickness benefit. Only 10 percent of sickness beneficiaries suffered from mental, psychoneurotic and personality disorders. Today over 130,000 people rely on these benefits and 40 percent of sickness beneficiaries have psychological or psychiatric conditions.

So things are not flash in the area of mental health - and particularly not for Maori.

(Caution; statistics keeping for Maori may not have been as reliable forty years ago as it is today).

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