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Important statistics which would help to understand the state of New Zealand’s mental health services are not being collected, University of Otago research has found.
The study, one of several carried out to support the Government’s inquiry into mental health and addiction services, was made public after the release of the inquiry’s report late last year.
The report said New Zealand had no national estimates of the prevalence of mental distress or mental disorder.
The last national mental health survey was held 14 years ago and was now out of date.
"An up-to-date population-based survey using a clinical diagnostic tool is needed to accurately understand population prevalence," the report said.
Data from various sources, notably some Statistics New Zealand figures, could be used to obtain rough numbers for prevalence.
However, continuing to collect frequent, good-quality mental health information was important.
"To understand mental health and unmet need in New Zealand, it is critical to measure both the prevalence of mental distress or mental health conditions and service use and access," the report said.
"It is also key to measure service performance in order to understand how well our mental health services are meeting need in a timely, appropriate and cost-effective way."
The report said information was good in some areas - suicide prevalence, gambling harm and mental health issues concerning prison inmates were closely monitored.
Studies such as the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, the Christchurch Health and Development Study and Growing Up in New Zealand offered some evidence as to the prevalence rates of mental health and addiction issues, it said.
However, no comprehensive collection of primary mental healthcare data was available.
The Ministry of Health was investigating developing a national primary care data service, which might fill the gap in primary mental health data, the report said.
"In the absence of a new collection, we could use available primary mental healthcare data more effectively.
"The first step is to investigate what is collected by GPs, understand the quality of data and whether we could make it more accessible, and then potentially, combine it and attempt to standardise."
The Government received the report of the inquiry into mental health and addiction services in November, and will formally respond in March.