Professor Ron Paterson (Chair)

Hearing the voices of “stressed” and “overburdened” mental health workers is ”very important” to the Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry, says inquiry chair Ron Paterson.

He was speaking to Health Central after Friday’s launch of the inquiry Consultation Document in Palmerston North and the start of two months of national meetings.

“We know there is a large mental health workforce – many of whom are feeling disheartened – and some of whom have been working in the sector for many years,” said Paterson.

“Workers are talking about practising in a risk-averse environment and feeling ground down by a lack of resources and lack of training and so-forth.”

He said that was why it was, of course, very important to hear not only the voices of consumers, families and the public but also all the voices of mental health and addiction workers including support workers, social workers, nurses, psychologists, allied health staff and psychiatrists.  Paterson said many health professional groups had already reached out to the inquiry to make contact.

“And I strongly encourage them (mental health and addiction professionals) to make individual and group submissions.”  He said the inquiry team were ready to meet with groups and keen to ‘piggy-back’ on opportunities when professionals were already having national meetings.  In that way it had caught up with a national group of addiction leaders last month and would be attending the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Congress in Auckland on May 15.

Health Central also asked him whether mental health staff could expect the inquiry recommendations to lead to a reduction in their current work stress.

“I don’t want to foreshadow the recommendations,” said Paterson.  “But if we are talking about mental-wellbeing for all New Zealanders then of course the wellbeing of the people who are working mental health and addictions is really important – for all of us  – across many branches of the workforce and professions including the legal profession which I come from.”

“I’m much, much more aware of the impact of stress on people from my own time as health and disability commissioner and the contact I’ve had with the sector since,” he said.

“I’m aware that many people working in the health sector – and in the mental health sector in particular – are disheartened, overburdened and stressed.  And those are important issues that we need to address.”

The Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry is open for written, online and by phone submissions on how to improve mental health and addiction outcomes and services.

A simple 14 page consultation document in multiple languages and formats was released by the six-member inquiry team who were announced three months ago – along with the terms of reference for the $6 million inquiry.  Submissions close on June 5 2018 but the series of national meetings – including  15 ‘meet the panel’ public meetings  – end on July 5 with the inquiry due to report back to the Government with its recommendations no later than October 31.

Want more of the latest sector news, information, opinion and discussion straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter:


  1. May I suggest to Ron Paterson that his inquiry could also benefit from hearing from mental health workers who were NEVER stressed or overburdened, namely nursing staff who worked in our old residential, psychiatric hospitals. Since 1959 I worked as a psychiatric staff nurse and social worker in several mental hospitals here and in Australia. My wife and children will tell him that each and every morning I went to work in the most peaceful, non-threatening work situation possible : an old-fashioned mental asylum!. And yes, I have worked in acute mental health units and forensic units – as well as ordinary residential wards, of course. It made no difference : no “stress” or “overburdening” to be found anywhere.
    Why doesn’t Professor Paterson come running to us to ask us how we did it?? Why does he not try to figure out exactly how come things have changed so drastically??


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here