[8 February/Rural Life]

Rural mental health is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) Chief Executive, Michelle Thompson, said that although there have been positive announcements since the election, rural communities cannot wait for another government inquiry into mental health. They have plans in place, however the services were ‘completely over-subscribed and underfunded.’ The government is urged to help communities to progress with the plans they had. The five key themes they focussed on were rural wellbeing, rural connectivity, rural research and policy, rural health services and rural health workforce. An issue identified by Ms Thompson was the difficulty around not only recruiting rural doctors, but also retaining them. She also noted that there were a large number of people classified as urban who need to be rural, and vice versa.