The numbers are staggering when you think about it.
Mental illness affects about 3% of the population.
That means three out of every 100 people you may meet or walk past today may be experiencing a mental illness.
And these are only the ones who seek help – hundreds more do not, preferring to soldier on, regardless of how they feel.
After all, it is the Southern way, is it not? Staunch and strong, regardless.
For most it means carrying on in silence, scared of the stigma attached by society when someone identifies as having a mental health issue.
But the world around us is slowly changing, and through agencies such as the Southern Rivers Community Mental Health (SRCMHT) team in Balclutha, the societal barriers towards acceptance of those with mental health issues are being torn down and replaced by a new awareness towards the wellbeing of the individual.
The Southern Rivers Community Mental Health Team is part of the Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability Directorate of the Southern District Health Board and has been part of the community for more than 25 years now.
It originally started at the old hospital site before moving to Clyde St, next to Clutha Health First.
Clinical team manager Southern Rivers Community Mental Health team Lynn Noye said they see people with moderate to severe mental health issues and sometimes also act as the first point of contact for those seeking advice.
“Most clients are referred to us by GPs but a number of people still come through our doors seeking help, or someone to talk to [and] we can talk to them and guide them towards the correct services that may be able to help them.”
Team members were finding that as society was becoming more accepting of individuals holding up their hands and asking for help, that even though people felt they may have a mental health issue or illness, once they talked to someone they often discovered that their overwhelming feelings of being unable to cope were often born out of their circumstances and not necessarily because of an illness.
The key, she said, was understanding the difference between what is a mental health issue and what is a mental illness.
“People often get the two confused but the two are very separate.”
A mental health issue is a common mental disorder faced by people at some time in their lives, due to life circumstances. This includes low mood and experiencing some anxiety around a situation.
At least half of all New Zealanders will experience depression, anxiety or another mental health issue.
Mental illnesses are also called mental health disorders and refer to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect mood, thinking and behaviour, such as schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.
Your GP can assist with a mild to moderate mental health concern and can put clients in touch with other NGOs.
The SRCMHT team also has available a specialist child and adolescent mental health service which can see children and young people up to the age of 19 who are coping with moderate to severe mental health problems.