As Equally Well continues to grow and become more active I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to describe what it is when I’m asked. My usual description is to say, “Equally Well is a group of people and organisations committed to taking action to improve physical health outcomes for people who experience mental health and addiction issues”, as this is what I hear and see every day.

"Equally Well is a group of people and organisations committed to taking action to improve physical health outcomes for people who experience mental health and addiction problems."

However, recently I’ve heard lots of other descriptions of Equally Well.

Some people describe it as being about advocacy and influencing policy; others describe it as focused on ‘physical health systems integration’. I have heard Equally Well described as just about people in contact with secondary mental health services, and I’ve regularly heard people describe Equally Well as addressing the physical health impacts of psychotropic medications.

I started to feel concerned, that all these different descriptions would mean Equally Well might become diluted and misunderstood. But as I thought about this more and more, I realised the different descriptions of Equally Well are all right, and all reflect the principles of Equally Well, and the diversity of the collaborative we’ve created. 

It isn’t a problem, in fact it is a strength and is exactly the intention we had from the outset.

It is only through embracing the diversity of the many people and organisations who are part of Equally Well across the country, that we can really create lasting change, at different levels and in different places, which will bring better health outcomes.

"It isn’t a problem, in fact it is a strength and is exactly the intention we had from the outset.

Thank you to Keri Opai, paeārahi – strategic lead for Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui, for providing this whakataukī which helps to describe the people and the perspectives brought to Equally Well.

“Ahakoa he aha te rākau, he hua kei roto – No matter the type of tree, all bear their unique fruits”

The Equally Well Collaborative consensus position paper

Equally Well collaborative members have agreed that people who experience mental health and addiction problems need:

  • to be identified as a priority group at a national policy level based on significant health risks and relatively poor physical health outcomes 
  • to have access to the same quality of care and treatment for physical illnesses as everybody else, and in particular to have a right to assessment, screening and monitoring for physical illnesses 
  • to be offered support and guidance on personal goals and changes to enhance their physical wellbeing.

Underpinning principles of the collaborative

  1. Partnership between health professionals, people with lived experience of mental health and addiction problems and their families and whānau. 
  2. Stigma and discrimination will be addressed wherever it occurs. 
  3. Where possible good quality research evidence will inform activities and improve services. 
  4. Sustainable changes will be made by incorporating new approaches into business as usual. 
  5. People who experience mental health and addiction problems have a right to be well-informed about treatment options and wellness opportunities. 
  6. Different perspectives and world views are accepted and welcomed. 
  7. Quality of life is as important as extending lives.