The final few steps are now being taken to introduce a new Mental Health Policy which will ensure greater support networks for the public involving all mental illnesses, including those less visible, like anxiety and depression.
The policy recently went through public consultation and policy manager Valentino Wichman hopes it will soon be put before Cabinet for endorsement.
Wichman says they received 20 comments during the public consultation period, mostly in support of the policy.
His biggest concern was whether or not the policy was realistic and simple enough for the general public to understand.
However, he says he received many positive comments stating how easy the policy was to comprehend.
Wichman says people were supportive of the Suicide Prevention strategy which is also being worked on alongside the policy.
“I find it very comprehensive with an excellent balance between intervention and prevention including in the very neglected and essential area of suicide, which remains very high in these islands,” read one public comment.
Wichman says he also received many comments around depression and the mental illnesses that aren’t as noticeable.
“From there, I decided to amend some parts of the policy to make those more common types of illnesses more visible.”
The amended policy has been circulated around the local mental health sector for one final review before it is tabled for Cabinet.
Wichman hopes this will all happen within the next fortnight for the Mental Health Policy itself, and longer for the Suicide Prevention Strategy, which hasn’t gone to the public yet.
He says the suicide strategy has been circulated within the mental health sector, but is uncertain as to whether or not it should be put to public consultation.
The strategy involves ways to combat, or help to address, the issue of suicide within the Cook Islands.
“We have had quite a number of suicide cases per capita, so there has been a lot of work done since 2011 to create some sort of strategy,” Wichman says.
“During the meetings for the Mental Health Policy, it was agreed that we really needed to finalise a strategic plan for suicide prevention.”
Wichman says both the policy and strategy will need cross-ministry support for endorsement and implementation.
“Mental health is everyone’s business.”
If you or a family member is in need of mental health support, contact the following service providers.
Service providers in the Cook Islands:
Te Kainga Mental Health and Wellbeing Centre ph 20162
Youth Helpline ph 08004357
Ministry of Health ph 29110.