Random Play by Graham Reid

Alt.Nation: Mental Health Strikes 1 in 2

More than half of all New Zealanders will not have a mental illness at some time in their lives according to a survey released yesterday.

And of those people, four out of five said that they had not suffered any kind of anxiety, stress, or depression, or enjoyed substance misuse in the past five years.

The study conducted over eight years by research students at Waikato University’s Centre for Sanity further shows that many New Zealanders are sort of pretty happy all round, although they get a bit down when it rains for weeks on end.

“This is indeed encouraging result,” said Dr Peter Clarkson yesterday, “and while some of it reflects a kind of ’she‘ll be right’ attitude by New Zealanders there is no need for us to be complacent.

“At any time -- especially if we are in disadvantaged circumstances, are women, or Polynesian -- we may be susceptible to some form of anxiety.

“But let’s look on the bright side: white rich people are doing pretty well. And that is something we couldn’t have predicted. And while the white population is in relative decline as a percentage of the population there is ample evidence that some people are becoming really, really rich -- and they of course won’t be a drain on the health sector.

“They’ll probably just got to Melbourne for the weekend if they are feeling a bit down.”

The prime minister yesterday applauded the findings and said that one immediate result was that there would be no need to spend $8 million on further research or support programmes for healthy citizens.

“This kind of result shows clearly that people in this country have never had it so good, and that they have also never felt so good.

“It would be very convenient for my government to take credit for such findings and, although the issue is more complex than that, we will.”

Leader of the National Party Dr Don Brash said that while the figures were good news they should not be used to divert attention from what he called “the real issues”.

“It would be nice to be complacent about such a survey result, but once again we see something which the media banners in big headlines which actually diverts public attention from more important matters, such as just what David Benson Pope was doing at that school in Reefton last Wednesday around 11pm, and why the last album by Nesian Mystik didn’t sell as well as their debut.

“I note too that in the result Asian people are less prone to mental illness. My wife is Asian so in our family statistically that probably means that . . . well, if one out of every two people suffer from depression or anxiety then I suppose . . .”

Dr Clarkson acknowledged that what the survey also showed was that there were a significant number of people who did however suffer from depression.

“We have noted that depression is prevalent in some sectors of the community, notably amongst the young. But what we have also observed is that they tend to join rock bands or make movies about murders in small rural towns, and they invariably get great public recognition for that -- and are often recipients of grants so they can study abroad.

“So mental illness -- or as we call it, loopy behaviour -- is not necessarily a bad thing.

“After all, where would New Zealand literature be without manic depressives or folk who take a bit of a dark turn?”

Head of the New Zealand Authors and Writers Book Council Mrs Faye Taverstock-Te Whaa agreed.

“What is significant about more than half the population enjoying good mental health is that they are therefore able to hold down regular paid employment, which means they have an income with which they can buy books by some of our more depressing writers. In New Zealand Book Month this is excellent news.”

The sole dissenting voice came from editor of Investigate magazine Mr Ian Wishart who said the figures were open to interpretation and that he had evidence which would cast doubt on the findings.

“I can’t say just where and when I will be making this available, or who conducted the counter-survey, but in due course, once some photographs have been developed and we have identified the sexual orientation of some of those people behind the Waikato findings, I will be releasing it to the media.

“Well actually I won’t, I’ll just be suggesting that I have such a counter-survey -- and that should be enough for most people. It will certainly be a wake-up call for all New Zealanders.”

Dr Clarkson said that while further research was needed into the needs of those not suffering from depression there were some very simple solutions for the afflicted.

“We have found that a brisk walk in the morning, healthy eating, having a well-paid job, being in a caring family and having shitloads of money will help with anxiety problems or depression.”

Trevor Mallard could not be contacted for comment.

[The usual Alt.Nation disclaimer applies.]