The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) welcomes the Government’s response to He Ara Oranga – the report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.
The Foundation is encouraged to see 38 of 40 recommendations have received Government support, at least in principle.
“We’re very pleased to see a renewed investment in mental health services, especially at the community level,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says. “Demand for services has increased by 75% over the last 10 years and funding hasn’t kept pace with this demand. This demand must be met and we’re glad to see the Government recognises this and is investing in this area.”
The MHF is especially supportive of the Government’s investment in broader services – not just crisis services.
However, the response is not truly transformative… yet. And it will not be until all 38 recommendations are put into action.
“We accept that change will take time,” Mr Robinson says, “and we’re committed to working with Government to ensure key elements of the Inquiry’s recommendations are not lost and the whole package will be put into action.”
The Foundation cautions that a response so heavily-weighted on service delivery will not create lasting change.
“How will this investment of services keep pace with rising numbers of people who need support? Demand has been steadily increasing year on year, and the specific recommendations the Inquiry made to address this and start preventing mental health problems have been kicked for touch – the Government has delayed making a decision on these,” Mr Robinson says.
The Foundation sees public health responses, mental health education and initiatives that build and sustain the wellbeing of individuals, whānau and communities as essential to achieving long-term improvement to the mental health of New Zealanders.
The Foundation is concerned that while the Government has agreed in principle to address these things, they have delayed making any definitive announcement or commitments.
“Demand for services will always be high if we don’t invest now in improving the mental health of New Zealanders and not just accepting that increasing numbers of people will experience mental health problems.”
The Foundation is troubled to see there is no specific pathway toward reducing mental health inequities, and, in particular, that Māori cannot see a distinct plan of action to address the considerable mental health inequities they face.
“Māori feel they have been left to wait over and over again, wait while our people are in pain, wait while our whānau suffer incredible loss, now we’re being told to wait for the Health and Disability Sector review to make specific recommendations about how Māori health inequities can be addressed,” MHF advocacy alliance specialist Michael Naera says. “We’re tired of waiting.”
The MHF is hopeful tomorrow’s Budget announcement will include targeted funding to reduce mental health inequities for Māori.
The Foundation welcomes the Government’s commitment to repeal and replace the Mental Health Act.
“We have known for some time that the Act has been compromising the human rights and dignity of our most vulnerable people,” Mr Robinson says. “It is a significant relief to see the Government has accepted this and is committed to working toward a solution that keeps people safe while ensuring their human rights are not violated.”
Finally, the Foundation recognises the Government has been making significant investment and progress toward addressing some of the social issues that contribute to New Zealand’s high rates of suicide and mental distress.
“The Government’s commitment to working to reduce child poverty, strengthen the support given to young people in care, improve housing and reduce family and sexual violence are essential steps to improve our mental health and prevent suicide,” Mr Robinson says. “We will never see big improvements in our suicide rates or numbers of people experiencing significant distress without tackling these social determinants, and individuals can’t do that without government support.”
He Ara Oranga is a pathway forward for all New Zealanders, leading us into a future where all New Zealanders enjoy good mental health and have the tools, resources and support they need to address challenges and distress when they arise. The MHF is committed to being part of realising this vision.
Comment is available from the Mental Health Foundation in English and Te Reo Māori.
021 998 949