Mental Health in the Cook Islands has been an evolving conversation point which has become a priority- first with the Mental Health Regulations 2013 then with the National Mental health and well-being policy 2015. This was subsequently followed by the National mental health and well-being strategy.
One of the major issues that has been highlighted in the media has been the provision of an appropriate facility to cater for mental health cases. As highlighted in our mental health strategy- There has been a major shift globally to keep mental health services based in community settings. In large part this has always been the case for the Cook Islands with Te Kainga O Pa Taunga taking a lead role in mental health services.
The Ministry of Health has a mental health team consisting of a mental health doctor + mental health doctor trainee, a part time clinical psychologist and mental health nurse. This service is supplemented with a Visiting Psychiatrist and clinical psychologist who come to the Cook Islands once or twice a year. The Ministry has committed to increasing the capability and capacity of the mental health team and in the New Year we will be adding an extra mental health nurse and full time clinical psychologist to the team.
The Ministry has also been planning for a safe environment up at Rarotonga hospital which will cater for the extremely violent cases that are usually catered for in prison. This situation is not the ideal but in the interim it has served as the safest option.
Going forward the Ministry is working with CIIC to get this safe space up and running. At this stage the designs are in the last phase of development.
We must all remember that there is no health without mental health.