30 Sep 2015

Mental health under scrutiny at Pacific conference

7:37 am on 30 September 2015

Caring for people with mental health issues has been highlighted in the lead up to the Pasifika Medical Association Conference in Vanuatu.

Looking over Mele Village outside of Port Vila, the river on the left burst its banks during the cyclone floodng the entire village and destroying all their food gardens.

The first Pasifika Medical Association conference in Melanesia starts in Port Vila today Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

It's the first time the biennial Pasifika Medical Association conference is being hosted by a Melanesian country.

The conference officially opens today in Port Vila but for the past two days mental health experts from Australia and New Zealand have led a workshop for local health professionals.

Dr Nick Kowalenko, Chair of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists' Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, says the Association invited them because it recognises the importance of mental health.

"There's a lot of worries about suicide in the Pacific region, there's a lot of worries about drug use in the Pacific region, and there's a lot of worries about especially young people and youth getting the kind of treatments they need to make sure they can stay in school, stay in work, and stay as productive community members.

Dr Nick Kowalenko says they've been teaching a group of doctors and nurses in Vanuatu methods for dealing with mental health problems.