Residents of New Zealand's second city of Christchurch will be provided with more mental health and counselling services after they had to endure thousands of minor earthquakes and aftershocks over the last 10 months in addition to the major quakes of February and June.
The government on Thursday announced it would spend an extra 1. 5 million NZ dollars (1.24 million U.S. dollars) on mental health services in the Canterbury region, including a new specialist earthquake response team to help the more vulnerable.
In a bid to help the people recover from the series of trauma they have had to face in the last year, Associate Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman said the funding would also aim at implementing extended general practitioner consultations and increased counselling support to help people cope with the on-going effects of earthquakes and aftershocks in the region.
The minister also added that the new government move came as primary health-care providers are reporting increasing demand for mental health services.
"Many people in Canterbury are feeling exhausted and drained by the ongoing stress," Coleman said Thursday.
"More people are seeking help and we are monitoring the situation to ensure the Canterbury DHB (district health board) and mental health providers can continue to meet the demand."
The new programme will ask for GPs to provide extended consultations and brief mental health interventions, while the earthquake response team, which would liaise with GPs on mental health issues, would provide individual and group therapy for older people, children and their families.
Coleman also pointed out that alcohol and drug services in Canterbury are aware many people are still distressed and work their hardest to ensure that those seeking help are being assessed quickly and provided with the appropriate support.
"We know how resilient Cantabrians are, but they've been through an incredibly tough time and help is there if they need it."
Last week the government pledged more than 16 million NZ dollars to the Canterbury District Health Board for earthquake-related costs in the 2010-2011 financial year.
Many homes have been uninhabitable since a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck on Sept. 4 last year and the city had been rocked by more than 7,350 tremors as of June 23, including 28 ones of magnitude 5 or greater, while a major quake on Feb. 22 killed at least 181 people.