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Strategies for early intervention and prevention of mental illness in New Zealand

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Media Release:  Today Loneliness NZ provided its submission to the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. On May 8, a statement from Loneliness NZ was read to the Inquiry Panel at the  ‘Meet the Panel’ session at Auckland City Hospital, at which time the Panel encouraged Loneliness NZ to let them know what we would do different – that is provide a solution rather than only state a problem.  We have done just that in our Government Inquiry submission: “Strategies for early intervention and prevention of mental illness in New Zealand.” In the submission we:

  • provide evidence showing the relationship between loneliness and mental health and addiction;
  • explain how social change is contributing to the rapid rise of loneliness in New Zealand society;
  • recommend a change in the New Zealand mental health paradigm, so that it is extended to include focusing on loneliness as an early intervention before mental illness and promote social wellbeing as a prevention of mental illness;
  • explain how Loneliness NZ will focus on those feeling lonely as an early intervention before mental illness; and
  • explain how Loneliness NZ will focus on promoting social wellbeing as a prevention of mental illness.
For further information, please contact us.

Feature photo: Loneliness NZ

Only the lonely

Review: Today the Otago Daily Times published an article by Steve Braunias, who met with legendary guitar player Peter Posa at his home in Te Awamutu.  Peter tells Steve about his life stories, including his fame and deep despair.

In 1970 he attempted suicide by crashing his vehicle one night. “I was lonely, I was depressed – loneliness is a terrible feeling. That’s really the thing I think that causes depressions.”

He  married in 1991 and they moved to Te Awamutu.  However, he still suffered and had three attempts to take his life.  “The last one,” he said, “I just felt so lonely, so deep with loneliness, that I felt I was on the outside looking in, where you just can’t feel love. I thought, `I can’t stand this anymore.’ … Margaret came in and found me slumped over the couch, vomiting.”

In September he will be 77 years old.

Growing concern as more Kiwis taking anti-depressants than ever before

Review: Today Seven Sharp reported on the dramatic increase the use of anti-depressants, which has increased by 65% between 2006 and 2016. We note that this statistic aligns with the increase in the levels of those feeling lonely most/all of the time, which increased by 60% between 2014 and 2016.

The growth of anti-depressants is partly a result of the stretched mental health sector, where it is easier to prescribe anti-depressants than get access to counselling.  The problem, however, is that users are finding it difficult to wean themselves off anti-depressants – and so are staying on them for longer than is ideal.

Feature photo:  Hillary Barry and Jeremy Wells of Seven Sharp.  TVNZ.

Loneliness could be as serious an epidemic as obesity, say experts

Review: Today Nicky Pellegrino writes in the New Zealand Listener on the serious nature of loneliness.  She refers to the recent University of Otago study of loneliness in the elderly, before pointing out that loneliness affects all ages. She points out that loneliness has consequences for not only mental health, but also physical health.  For example, “loneliness is considered on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise and smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death.”  There are also studies of the elderly that link feeling lonely to dementia. It is also believed that loneliness influences the levels of inflammation in the body, thus increasing the chance of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

According to Dr Hamish Jamieson, the lead author of the University of Otago study, loneliness “can make many issues worse, including pain, depression, anxiety and respiratory conditions.” There are studies showing the more time you spend on social media, the more socially isolated you feel. Some of the causes of this ‘epidemic’ are weaker neighbourhoods, less connection to churches, friends and family moving away, and more fragmented families. Dr Jamieson believes the loneliness problem is only going to grow as the population ages, technology further advances and people lead busier lives.

Feature photo: Getty Images

It’s actually killing people: Loneliness in elderly equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day

Review:  This morning Jack Tame interviewed Age Concern Canterbury CEO Simon Templeton on TV1 Breakfast.  In a composed performance, Simon outlined the seriousness of loneliness for the elderly. Whilst he was alarmed by the figures in ‘the first big New Zealand study on ageing’, he was not surprised.  He has a team of eight staff working exclusively on dealing with social isolation of the elderly in Canterbury. He believed some of the factors leading to the rise in loneliness among the elderly were living longer,

mobility becoming restricted, and family/friends moving away. The problem is so serious that some elderly will not see someone for weeks. He referred to the international research suggesting loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day before saying that loneliness is “actually killing people.”  He said that we all have a part to play in addressing the problem – as well as more funding from the Government.

Feature photo: Jack Tame and Simon Templeton interview. TVNZ

Loneliness epidemic will hit in 2030, say researchers

Review:  Today Olivia Lambert reported in the NZ Herald about loneliness, particularly in relation to Australia.  According to Lambert: ‘A loneliness epidemic will become a huge crisis in the future and will be a public health issue as big as obesity.’  The article, which is syndicated from news.com.au, refers to research from the US and Australia that shows the health consequences of loneliness.

According to the CEO of Lifeline Australia: ‘For a society that is more technologically connected than we have ever been, these results suggest we’re overlooking good old-fashioned care and compassion when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing.’ The University of Queensland of Technology suggests that robot intimacy could be the cure for loneliness.

Feature photo: Getty Images

The age of loneliness: Social isolation ‘most common’ issue for Nelson’s elderly

Review: Today Jonathan Carson of Stuff reported that a survey by Age Concern Nelson Tasman found that 77% of respondents said that loneliness and isolation were a major issue. Some of the reasons given for being lonely and isolated were: not having family, not easily being able to

leave home due to transport issues, a lack of awareness of what is on, and feeling socially uncomfortable attending events alone. Age Concern Nelson Tasman  has a volunteer Accredited Visiting Service that helps provide company to about 80 Older Adults every week.

Feature photo: Age Concern Nelson-Tasman manager Sue Tilby says isolation is a real problem among the elderly. Stuff