Which Person Will Help Me Best

Doctor/Support Worker/Psychiatrist/Psychologist – who and when?
There are lots of people who can help you when you are unwell. Here are some tips.
  • In emergencies, dial  111, or call the Mental Health Crisis Team https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/services-and-support/health-care-services/mental-health-services/crisis-assessment-teams. If you or someone you care for is very unwell or suicidal, you can also go to a hospital Accident and Emergency department.
  • If things are bad, a telephone helpline can really assist. There’s a list below, and even more on https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/helplines
  • In general, it may not matter which professional you contact first with mental health problems, because if they cannot help you, they will know who will.
  • There are Citizens Advice Bureaus in most centres. They often have information of services and agencies that can help.
  • Your doctor is always a good person to see if you are worried about something. Even though they may not be a mental health specialist, about a third of a GP’s workload has a mental health component, so they will probably understand your mental health challenges quite well. They can decide whether you need more specialist assistance, and usually have a good idea of agencies and services that you can access. They can also prescribe medicines; even if your medication is usually prescribed for you by a specialist, your GP may be able to help you with something urgent and can also help you get an appointment with your regular specialist doctor.
  • Psychiatrists are doctors who specialise in mental health. They study for many years on top of their regular medical training. They are especially useful in treating serious mental health problems like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They often prescribe medicines and are involved in making sure medical treatments are working well.
  • Psychologists are not doctors and don’t prescribe medicines; instead, they provide various talking therapies to help with emotional and mental problems. (There are psychologists who don’t do therapy – for example, they may work in business or education; the ones who are especially trained to do therapy with people are called clinical psychologists.)  Psychologists are good at helping people with anxiety, depression, phobias and other mental and emotional problems.
  • Counsellors may or may not be psychologists. Most counsellors have done years of training in psychotherapy, but in New Zealand, anyone can call themselves a counsellor. If they belong to the New Zealand Association of Counsellors, then you can be assured they are professional and qualified (though you may find that the ones who are not part of that association are still very helpful). They help people talk through issues, solve problems, and work out plans of actions
  • Mental Health Nurses, or Psychiatric Nurses, have extensive training in caring for people with mental health problems. They sometimes work in hospitals and clinics, but are also part of mental health support teams in the community. They are qualified to administer some drugs.
  • Mental Health Support Workers are increasingly well trained. Mental health impacts jobs, families and relationships and support workers are particularly skilled at helping people ‘in their world’, helping people with mental health challenges to ‘get their life back’. As well, they ensure people are on-track with receiving the right services and care that they need, and helping people monitor and respond to their symptoms.