Health coaches to help those with mild mental health issues in Northland, Wellington

A scheme is underway to get health coaches out into the community to provide help for people with mild mental health issues.

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The health coaches will be based at local GP clinics. Source: 1 NEWS

The new teams are starting work at GP clinics in Northland and Wellington.

One man using the service is Northland man Miles Bundle, a full-time carer to his wife, who suffers from dementia.

“She was out on the road in her night dress. The neighbour rescued her,” Mr Bundle explained.

“It just takes a trigger and you want to do something about it, and that's when I got in touch with the GP, who in turn got in touch with Ngahuia [Pou].”

Ms Pou is part of a new workforce working with people with mild mental health and addiction issues at GP practices.

“He hadn't had a break. He is a loving, devoted husband that did want to keep intact his wife’s mana,” Ms Pou said.

Mr Bundle said while he is “a bit of a stoic” who can "cope with most things", having the chance to "download a bit of what you've got in your head is a big help”.

The scheme is part of a $455 million health programme which will see health coaches rolled out into communities across the country over the next five years.

“We know that many of those people have been missing out right up ‘til now and that's meant that small problems can become big ones,” Health Minister David Clarke said.

The health coaches are not registered health workers, however. To become a coach, they must complete a week-long training course, after which they rely on their own personal experience and what they’ve learned to help manage mental health conditions.

The Northland District Health Board (DHB) has received around 1200 mental health referrals between March and December last year.

Bush Road Medical Centre has been trialling the programme for the last 18 months.

Dr Andrew Miller said 80 per cent of what his patients have expressed regarding their wellbeing “has nothing to do with me writing prescriptions".

“Often, until I get those things sorted out, then anything I want to do in terms of prescriptions and medicine's a waste of time,” he said.

“That's the great thing about it. I can deal with that problem right there and then.”

Mr Bundle now has respite care for his wife, allowing him to take a break from caring for her full-time.