But more on-the-ground services would be better!

Through its Budget 2019, the Government made an unprecedented investment of $1.9 billion over four years to improve mental wellbeing and address addiction.

Critics say much of that remains unspent.

Now Health Minister Andrew Little has announced a new strategy:

“Kia Manawanui Aotearoa – Long-term pathway to mental wellbeing (Kia Manawanui) is the first 10-year plan of its kind that targets the cause of mental distress and also sets out how to achieve pae ora – healthy futures.

“Our mental health system was neglected for nine years under the previous government and we have taken on the massive task to fix it,” he said.

No one questions the need. Here are some findings from a recent research brief from the Assn of Salaried Medical Specialists, What Price Mental Health, a group critical of the pace of spending rollout:

  • The estimated number of adults with anxiety disorder more than doubled between 2011 and 2019. The estimated number of adults with depression grew by 32% over the same period.
  • The estimated number of children with anxiety disorder doubled between 2011 and 2019. In 2019, the estimated number of children with depression was 75% higher than in 2011.
  • Despite the growth in service use, about 60% of the people who die by suicide in New Zealand each year are reported to have not interacted with an MHA service in the previous 12 months. 

The Government insists progress has been made, but their numbers don’t seem very impressive in the face of growing need:

  • Almost 240 general practice sites are delivering mental health and addiction services that never existed before, around 11,000 people every month are getting help through this free service;
  • 18 contracts are in place for dedicated services that best fit the needs of young New Zealanders;
  • Tailored support for Māori and Pacific populations is now available within primary and community care settings;
  • There have been more than 570 full-time equivalent roles established to provide these new primary mental health and addiction services;
  • Youthline’s capacity has been boosted thanks to an additional $1 million in funding;
  • 74 Māori and 18 Pacific suicide prevention initiatives have been funded
  • Mana Ake, which provides mental health and wellbeing support for children in primary school years 1-8, is expanding into five new District Health Board areas.

    Not unexpectedly, ignoring his party’s past neglect, National’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention spokesperson Matt Doocey responds :

    “If the Government had delivered on its promises the services Kiwis need would be available.

    “Labour promised $25 million for mental health services in tertiary education and 15 months on not a single dollar has been spent, not one new service has been delivered and not one young person has been seen.

    “The rollout of inpatient mental health facilities is occurring at a glacial pace. The promised frontline mental health service has been rolled out to fewer than 25 per cent of New Zealand’s GP practices. 

    “The promise of free counselling for 18-25 year olds is two years old but still isn’t available for young Kiwis outside of Wellington.

    “Struggling Kiwis and their families don’t want another working group, they don’t want more spin. They want help, they want action from the Government and they want Labour to deliver on its promises.

    Who to believe? Listening to mental health professionals on the front line here in Hawke’s Bay, one senses there’s truth on all sides … historical neglect before Labour and glacial change under Labour. And the stress increases.

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  1. Just one family’s experience – our 21year old student in Wellington saw a clinical psychologist in less than 7 hours of asking for an appointment and has received ongoing support by telephone since coming home for rest and recuperation, and is maintaining online study

  2. It is sad reading to learn that there is a doubling of depression and anxiety disorder across all ages. Why is this so? Will this trend continue? If so mental health services will never be able to meet demand. We need to recognise the drivers of this epidemic and work towards having a happy, healthy society. Poverty leads to all manner of illness and funding for this will need to grow exponentially. We need to fight poverty with good education and housing for all along with an adequate income. If you can’t pay the rent or buy food, of course you’re going to be anxious and depressed.

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