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Government and health sector commitment to ADHD progress 'a giant step forward', says ADHD New Zealand

20 September, 2022

Interview by Trishil Dahya, adapted by Jessica Hopkins 

Listen to the full interview

ADHD New Zealand board chair Darrin Bull (pictured left) and Green Party spokesperson for mental health, Chlöe Swarbrick (pictured right) have advocated for improving outcomes for the ADHD community. Photo: Chlöe Swarbrick. 

The government and health sector have committed to improving access to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) diagnosis and treatment. 

At a hui hosted by ADHD New Zealand and the Green Party of Aotearoa last month, Police, Te Whatu Ora, DHBs, professional medical colleges, and the Ministry of Health reached a consensus that the status quo is not working for people with ADHD.

They agreed on six outcomes which would make the most significant changes for the ADHD community, including improving access to medicine, increasing understanding of the disorder, building a consistent model of service, and quality training for healthcare workers.

"This is the roadmap for transformational change to ADHD diagnosis and treatment, the biggest we've seen in a generation," Green Party spokesperson for mental health, Chlöe Swarbrick told 95bFM's The Wire.

"Crucially, this includes changes to the 'special authority' process, which has been an expensive and arduous barrier for many to access their medication."

ADHD New Zealand board chair Darrin Bull told The Wire that providing a health system that understands them and access to diagnosis when needed would make things "massively better" for people with ADHD. 

"This is a giant step forward. It's just unbelievable. The attitude of we can do this and we can work together is something I never expected."

Over the past four or five years, Bull said there has been a gradual disappearance of the negative stigma surrounding the condition as more people are being diagnosed or recognising symptoms of ADHD. 

Bull attributed TikTok and social media as significant in starting conversations about ADHD.

"The TikTok hashtag ADHD has had 14 billion views. A lot of people are hopping on to TikTok and recognising their symptoms."

But Bull said recent research from Canada suggests that only 50% of ADHD-related content on TikTok is accurate, and only 20% can support those with ADHD. 

"But it's a source of information. It's empowering the community and leading to greater acceptance." 

Bull also credited Swarbrick, who opened up about her own ADHD diagnosis this year.

"When Chlöe shared her diagnosis, many people didn't know girls could have ADHD. ADHD New Zealand sees many women in their 20s and 30s getting diagnosed. It's a liberating moment. Those are the sort of conversations we are starting to have." 

According to Bull, around 260,000 to 280,000 New Zealanders are living with ADHD.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air