Christchurch terror attacks: Ongoing mental health support vital for affected families

8:23 am on 11 April 2019

An organisation supporting families affected by the Christchurch mosque attacks says mental health support will be needed for some time to come.

Police taping off the street out Christchurch mosque, families reunite

People directly affected by the attacks are able to get free GP visits, and they can be referred to other support services. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

The Christchurch Victims Organising Committee is a volunteer organisation helping about 60 families affected by the shootings, with everything from food parcels to dealing with government agencies.

The committee's operations manager Zhiyan Basharati said with everything that's been going on, some people just haven't had time to think about their mental health or access support.

"It's because families are still grieving, it's only been three weeks. I know families we've been helping, we've been encouraging them and referred them to specialist mental health support," she said.

But they can't be rushed into accepting that help, Ms Basharati said.

There had been a huge amount of support offered in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and she said the Canterbury district health board had done a good job. It had to continue, though.

"It's the future I'm worried about, it's two months from now, three months from now, six months from now - that's what we have to think about," Ms Basharati said.

It was also important to listen to what the people who have been directly affected wanted, she said.

"What are their needs? Have their needs been met? What do they need right now, or three months from now in regards to mental health support? They will have the answers - at the moment, we just need to wait," she said.

Culture and language could be a big barrier to accessing support, too.

"The moment that you speak somebody's language, it eases the anxiety. The moment that you understand somebody's culture, it eases their pain and it allows them to open up and it breaks that wall in regards to trusting that professional," Ms Basharati said.

In a statement, the Canterbury DHB said it's in discussions with the Ministry of Health about extra resourcing following the mosque attacks.

It said Muslim health professionals had come to Christchurch to help support the community - and it's talking to them about their ongoing availability to remain in the city.

People who were directly affected by the attacks are able to get free GP visits, and they can be referred to other support services.

The Canterbury Charity Hospital is also offering free counselling sessions.

The national mental health helpline, 1737, has provided more than 12,000 counselling sessions since 15 March.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

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