The Government has announced details of the initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission which will play a key role in driving better mental health in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she wants to reinstate the Mental Health Commission, which was shut down in 2012.

“It was held in high regard and did a good job of providing leadership and accelerating progress across the sector. We want it back to hold us and future governments to account.”

The initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission will lay the groundwork for the permanent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission in February 2021, following legislation to set up the crown entity. It will track the Government’s progress on the range of actions taken to tackle the long-term challenge of improving mental healthcare across New Zealand. It will report back directly to the Minister of Health within one year.

The Government has appointed Hayden Wano as the Chair of the initial Commission and four other members. Mr Wano is of Te Atiawa, Taranaki and Ngāti Awa descent and brings over 40 years’ health sector experience in mental health, community and medical services to this role.

“A key focus for Mr Wano and the initial commission will be looking at the wider range of factors that contribute to people’s overall mental wellbeing,” says Health Minister David Clark. “That includes looking across social welfare, housing, education and justice as well as talking to those with experience of mental health and addiction.”

Mental Health Commissioner Kevin Allan has welcomed the announcement of an initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission. Allan will continue in his current independent monitoring and advocacy role, working within the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner. He will liaise closely with the initial Commission, co-ordinating work and providing advice where appropriate.

“This is a significant step towards a much-needed transformation of New Zealand’s mental health and addiction sector,” says Allan. “I am pleased to see the broad focus of the initial Commission, which has been tasked with considering the wider factors which impact on our mental health and well-being.”

Today’s announcement follows the release on Tuesday of the Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan and the start of the primary mental healthcare roll-out across the country.

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