Government will cover mental health for terror attack victims

3:31 pm on 27 March 2019

The government has promised that victims of the Christchurch terror attacks will be able get mental health treatment and support, even if they were not physically injured.

People gather outside Al Noor Mosque

People gather outside Al Noor Mosque Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Yesterday, ACC said 10 people who had made claims for mental injuries were not covered because they were not physically injured and the injury did not happen while they were working.

ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the government was considering options to ensure people directly affected by the terror attacks received the appropriate level of support.

ACC is working with other agencies, including the Canterbury District Health Board, to make sure people get help.

In the short term, the Ministry of Health is working with local providers to ensure services are available to address immediate mental health needs.

At the same time, the national 1737 mental health helpline is continuing to be busier than usual following the shootings.

It is receiving an average of 600 contacts a day, and counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists have provided more than 6100 counselling sessions since the 15 March attacks.

Initially, the average length of those counselling sessions was over 40 minutes, but that has now dropped back to an average of 34 minutes.

Many of those who were getting in touch were directly affected or saw what happened.

Others were connected to the families and the Muslim community.

And the Ministry of Social Development said it had processed more than 600 applications for assistance following the attacks.

Canterbury regional commissioner John Henderson said the ministry paid out almost $160,000. Help has included one-off payments for emergency travel, food and clothing.

Mr Henderson said the ministry had staff based at the community hub that was set up after the shootings. They had been brought in from Auckland and Waikato who were part of the Muslim community.

The government helpline that was set up last Thursday has received more than 500 calls.

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