By: Derek Cheng
Nothing is off the table for the Government’s inquiry to find solutions to the country’s mental health crisis as it prepares to dive into the crisis of a sector that has been overrun by demand.
The inquiry, announced yesterday by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, will take an extensive look at the diverse drivers of mental health issues, including social media pressures, poverty, family violence and homophobia.
It will also look at the underfunding of addiction services, and why there are disproportionate outcomes for Maori and other groups.
Flanked by Health Minister David Clark for the announcement, Ardern encouraged the inquiry to look at the sector from every angle.
“Nothing is off the table. We all know we have a problem with mental health in this country and our suicide rate is shameful. It is well past time for us to do something about it.
“Most of us will know a friend or whānau member who has faced a mental health challenge in their lives. Plenty have reached out and received the support required, but too many still have unhappy stories to tell.”
Many were included in the Herald‘s Break The Silence series last year, which revealed that New Zealand had the worst teen suicide rate and second-worst youth suicide rate in the developed world. The series prompted a number of people to speak out about their dissatisfaction with the system.
The inquiry will report back at the end of October, enough time to include any extra funding for Budget 2019.
“This is not about tinkering. There needs to be significant change,” Clark said.
“All of us have heard stories about things that haven’t worked, so we know there needs to be change, and that may require resources.”
The inquiry, which will be chaired by former Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson, will focus on equity of access to quality services – including addition services.
The inquiry will travel the country and hear public and private submissions.
Other members of the inquiry will be:
- Dr Barbara Disley, former director of the Mental Health Foundation and former executive chair of the Mental Health Commission; current chief executive of Emerge Aotearoa
- Sir Mason Durie, an expert in Māori health and culture, who has served on a range of health-related committees, councils and advisory groups, including the Mental Health Foundation (1976-1980), and the National Health Committee (1998-2000)
- Dean Rangihuna, who works in the frontline of the mental health sector as a forensic Māori consumer adviser for the Canterbury DHB.
- Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, acting co-head of the School of Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland, with particular expertise and experience in Pasifika mental health and suicide prevention.
- Josiah Tualamali’i, who received the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award for leadership and inspiration and currently works at the University of Canterbury.
The inquiry, which will cost $6.5 million, will also inform the re-establishment of the mental health commission, which is part of the coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First.
National’s spokesman for Mental Health Matt Doocey said it was time for action, not an inquiry.
He said the previous Government put an extra $100 million in to services based on evidence of what would have the most impact.
Clark said only some of the policies from the previous Government’s $100m towards mental health had been progressed, and the Government would keep any that had merit, and ditch the rest.
Dave Macpherson, who has been calling for an inquiry since his son Nicky Stevens committed suicide while in care at Waikato’s Henry Bennett Centre in 2015, told the Heraldthe Government “was on the right track”.
“I think the Government is absolutely on the right track to have a broad ranging inquiry and look at the reasons behind mental health and not just the services that are provided,” he said.
While he was happy an inquiry was taking place he believed families of suicide victims and mental health patients should have been represented on the inquiry team.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said the current system was not working.
“It’s very encouraging that the Government are committed to an integrated approach to promoting mental wellbeing, preventing mental health problems and responding to the needs to those people who are experiencing mental distress.
“It isn’t just about building more hospitals and specialist services. We need a focus on prevention, as well as system reform.”
Government Inquiry into mental health
- Will hear from communities, providers, and people with mental health issues all over the country
- Will assess where the sector is, and make recommendations by the end of October on how to improve it
- Will look in particular at equity of access, community confidence in the mental health system, and better outcomes – particularly for Māori and other groups with poorer outcomes
- Will be chaired by former Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson
- Will cost $6.5m
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
Source: NZ Herald