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Is our happy face fake?

Covid Recovery

Tom Belford29 June 2020

I’m sincerely happy to read that bankers at Westpac tell us all is well in Hawke’s Bay — “No 1 in Economic Optimism in NZ” — blares the front-page headline in Monday’s HB Today (29 June).

The article explains that a net 19% of Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne households said in a recent survey for the bank that they expect the regional economy to prosper over the next 12 months.

On the one hand, this is welcome, reassuring news for us all … and BayBuzz in particular given that our soon-to-be-relaunched magazine cover proclaims, “HB Open for Business”, a cover line chosen because our writers in preparing their articles over recent weeks have encountered plenty of this optimism.

On the other hand, I have this nagging upset in my gut. Are we all being too rosy, just putting on a fake happy face?

And today my concern was reinforced when I read the latest report from Sir Peter Gluckman’s think tank, titled Protecting and Promoting Mental Wellbeing: Beyond Covid-19.

Gluckman et al say that although we’ve successfully (hopefully) addressed the medical health threat posed by Covid-19, the battle has just begun in terms of mental wellness … even if NZ has no future setback on the medical front.

Noting that recent commissions and reports — and the experts behind them — have agreed that 20% of New Zealand’s population — the “Previously At-Risk” — is ‘normally’ suffering from some significant level of mental distress pre-Covid, the Gluckman report warns of the “New At-Risk” population:

“(A) group of children, adolescents, working age adults, and older citizens facing major disruption in their lives – disruption they did not prepare for – (who) may be, somewhat paradoxically, less resilient than the previously at-risk. This is because they are less likely to have experienced such situations of being completely overwhelmed, without hope, and without a sense of personal efficacy or agency. These newly vulnerable people may not know how to seek help, and their peers and family may not recognise their needs. They will have little or no experience of welfare and agency support. They face status degradation, which will create psychological tension impacting on their families.”

The key to this danger is that the stresses caused by economic hardship could last — unrelentingly — a considerable time, and will affect many people who have previously not had to cope with such set-back and distress. This group, the report says, has “no playbook for this scenario and could respond in unpredictable or even catastrophic ways.”

BayBuzz will be delving into this issue in depth in our magazine, even as we cautiously celebrate Hawke’s Bay’s recovery prospects. And we will welcome your thoughts and the insights of professionals working in the field.

In the meantime, if you or someone you know needs help with mental distress, here are some resources.

Need to take helpline: Free call or text 1737 any time.

https://www.depression.org.nz

Depression hotline: 0800 111 757

For youth: The Lowdown
TXT 5626

Mental health crisis line: 0800 112 334

 

Tom Belford29 June 2020

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