By HUGH COLLINS, TRACEY ROXBURGH & GUY WILLIAMS
AS the fallout from Covid-19 continues, Queenstown mayor Jim Boult’s worried the resort’s mental health services are struggling to cope with demand.
He tells Mountain Scene he’s hearing reports of people waiting weeks for an appointment with a counsellor, while others are unloading their mental health burden on GPs.
Most seriously, Boult says he’s aware of several suspected suicides in the resort since the start of the lockdown four months ago.
He’ll be raising those issues with Southern District Health Board boss Chris Fleming today, and asking him if the resort’s mental health team has ‘‘adequate personnel and adequate resource’’, he says.
Boult says there continues to be a stigma around talking about mental illness that’s discouraging many residents, particularly men, from seeking help.
‘‘We come from a background where we thought it was something to be talked about behind closed doors.
‘‘We need to get over that, we need to realise this is an issue that’s real and there’s no stigma in it … you’ve got to go and get some help.’’
Boult’s particularly concerned about the number of men in the resort feeling pressure to keep providing for their families, but putting on a traditional Kiwi ‘‘staunch’’ front to those around them.
‘‘They’re worried about whether they’ve got a job, and their ability to provide for their family.
‘‘I’m told people are going to the doctor, ostensibly for a cold or whatever, but when they’re getting there they’re talking about mental health issues, depression in particular.’’
Boult’s concerns are shared by Lance Burdett, a former police officer of 22 years and founder of resilience coaching company WARN (Wellness, Awareness, Resilience and Negotiation).
He’s running a seminar in the resort tomorrow aimed at helping people deal with stress and anxiety.
Burdett, who spent half his cop career in crisis negotiation, says Queenstown’s economic boom of the past few years means many residents haven’t faced anything as challenging as the Covid-19 crisis before.
“So we’ve got nothing to refer to from previous times, and that’s when our mind comes into play and makes things up.
‘‘When we’re faced with adversity, it doesn’t matter what the adversity is, we go into negative thinking and that’s a defence mechanism we have.”
The aim of his seminar is to halve people’s worry by giving them practical skills to change the way they think and help them move forward.
It also looks at how to tell when another person is struggling, and how to safely handle and manage them to go and get help.
But the course, which is based on neuroscience, approaches the issues in a “positive light”, Burdett says.
“It’s got lots of practical things on how to deal with it, and there’s plenty of time to ask questions so we can start showing people what’s going on.
“It’s about an hour-and-a-half long, lots of laughs, maybe a few tears from some people, but that’s normal.”
Event organiser Gemma Smith says she saw a need for people to get some tools to address anxiety and stress, for example.
“There are very few of us in the community who’re untouched by what’s going on at the moment in one way or another.
“Not all of us have the ability to deal with the stress, so the more people know about it and have some pragmatic tools to implement in their daily lives, the better.’’
- Lance Burdett on wellness and resilience support in times of uncertainty, Saturday, August 1, 7pm, Shotover Primary School Hall. Tickets cost $10, from Humanitix
●Need to Talk? 1737, free 24/7 phone and text number
●Healthline: 0800 611 116
●Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543 354
●Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865
●Samaritans: 0800 726 666
●Alcohol and Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797
●General mental health inquiries: 0800 443 366
●The Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757