Supporting mental health in Kaikoura a priority

Friday November 18, 2016

​Health officials are crediting Kaikoura residents and visitors for their vigilance in preventing a gastro outbreak but are concerned about the high levels of anxiety and stress being experienced in the community.  

Dr Ramon PinkDr Ramon Pink, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, who returned from Kaikoura today, says there are currently no signs of any gastro outbreaks in the area.

"The community and the relief workers have taken to heart the importance of boiling or treating water and hand washing. Everyone needs to keep it up as gastro bugs have the potential to spread like wildfire through a community. With so little clean water available, any gastro bug would be extremely difficult to control," he says.

Dr Pink acknowledges that this is a very tough time for people in Kaikoura.

"It's a very challenging environment for everyone. What makes things so hard is the fact Kaikoura's so cut off, making it difficult to get supplies in and people out. This is something we didn't have to deal with in the Canterbury quakes of 2010 and 2011.

"I was struck by how strong the community is and how they're coming together to support visitors, as well as each other. While many are pulling up their sleeves, helping others and just getting on with things, support will be required well into the future.

"Mental health staff are in place and providing immediate support but as we've learned from the Canterbury quakes, recovery takes time."

Dr Pink says as well as immediate concerns like housing, electricity and clean water, residents and local businesses are concerned about what the future holds.

Dr Pink also advises for people to keep out of the sea and rivers during this time because of possible contamination.

"While some surfers are keen to see what surf breaks may be coming following the seabed movement caused by the quakes, they need to avoid the water until it's been cleared of contamination."

Since Monday, Dr Pink, fellow Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey and four Health Protection Officers, have supported response efforts on the ground in Kaikoura. This work has included checking water supplies, providing hand sanitiser and bleach, promoting public health messages, supporting other agencies involved in the response and reporting back to health authorities on the issues being faced.

In addition to public health staff, the Canterbury DHB has sent about 20 clinical staff to Kaikoura, including two psychologists to support the psychosocial recovery, nurses, allied health, a GP and Pharmacist.

ENDS

Page last reviewed: 18 November 2016
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