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Paramedics focus on mental health

Wellington Free Ambulance’s Wairarapa manager Jake Carlson holding feedback received during the pop-up. PHOTOS/FILE

Not all experience region as strong, connected community

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A pop-up workshop held by the Wellington Free Ambulance Service late last year, heard “many personal stories of depression, anxiety, addiction, social isolation and loneliness”, a report has shown.

“Many paramedics identified with social isolation as a mental health problem they routinely encounter in their work,” the WFAS Pop-Up Report said, in evaluating findings from the workshop which sought public feedback.

Mental health has been labelled by the media as “New Zealand’s quiet crisis’ and the report said it was “an “overwhelming issue in Wairarapa”, pointing to Carterton having the highest level of self-harm related hospitalisations in the country per population, and “a higher than average suicide rate”.

Wellington Free Ambulance paramedics Jonathan Rees and Hank Bader outside the Masterton pop-up centre late last year.

“The focus on social isolation in the pop-up reminds us that not everyone experiences Wairarapa as a strong, and connected community,” the report said.

The report said there were organisations doing good work in the mental health space.

“Age Concern and Connecting Communities work to strengthen the support networks of individuals and neighbourhoods.

“Pathways Wairarapa provides free mental health and addiction recovery services, and expressed enthusiasm for working more closely with Wellington Free.

“Te Hauora offers kaupapa Maori health services including drug and alcohol support.”

Recommendations for WFA from the pop-up included building stronger relationships with specialty services, developing a social isolation checklist for paramedics and giving them the tools to refer on ‘at risk’ patients, and extending their self-care phone service to include mental health counselling.

Other areas of focus in the report included primary care support, relationships, health pathways and the ambulance service’s team.

The report said that the ambulance service was under pressure, like much of the health community.

“Over the last five years, emergency ambulance responses have increased by 15 per cent,” the report said.

The report recommended the development of a community liaison officer role “so there is a dedicated person in Wairarapa working with partners to clarify, develop and test opportunities for cross-healthcare collaboration.”

It also recommended the development of a leadership hub to manage operations, personnel, community engagement, logistics and fundraising for the region.

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