Cracks in NZ mental health system revealed in review

Long wait times for services and strain on mental health workers were common problems noted in the People's Mental ...
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Long wait times for services and strain on mental health workers were common problems noted in the People's Mental Health Review.

Police are responding to 90 mental health-related calls every 24 hours, a new report has found. 

The People's Mental Health Review was carried out in response to a 2016 announcement funding was being cut from mental health services across the country. 

The findings, released on Wednesday, were collated from more than 500 stories submitted anonymously online.

Comedian and anti-suicide campaigner Mike King said New Zealand's mental health system was "reactive rather than proactive".
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Comedian and anti-suicide campaigner Mike King said New Zealand's mental health system was "reactive rather than proactive".

Psychologist Kyle MacDonald and comedian and mental health-advocate Mike King worked with ActionStation to carry out the review. 

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"There were no surprises in the findings for us. People are just confirming what we already know, which is services are getting harder to access by the day," King said. 

Long wait times, strain on workers and an under-resourced system were common points brought up by respondents.

"We're running a reactive rather than proactive service and it's putting pressure on workers," King said. 

The report made several recommendations, including an urgent funding increase for mental health services, a fully independent oversight of the mental health system, and a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the structure and provision of mental health services.

Public Service Association national secretary Erin Polaczuk said New Zealanders were suffering because the government was under-funding the health system. 

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"While more funding and extra staff are essential, it's not enough."

She said the report reinforced a recent survey of 6000 people working in health.

"The study found nine in 10 people working in health feel they don't have the staff or resources to give New Zealanders the health care they need, when they need it."

King said previous suggestions of an enquiry have been brushed aside by the Ministry of Health.

"We've got an industry that evaluates itself but we need an independent commission, someone who can take both sides into account." 

Labour leader Andrew Little said Kiwis had "huge concern" about publicly-funded mental health services.

The number of service users had increased by 60 per cent since 2007/08, he said.

"The report says patients have told 'a story of frustration at being unable to access mental health services.' This is a tragic indictment of the Government's underfunding with many submitters talking of despair and hopelessness.

"Recent reports of bed closures, staff assaults and suicides are signalling a growing crisis in mental health. The Government has to act and act now."

Green Party health spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter also added to the calls for an inquiry.

"People accessing support have been let down by a mental health system missing in action, and they should have the right to tell their story," she said.

MacDonald said education would help increase awareness about mental illness.

"We've come a long way with addressing de-stigmatisation but the conversation we now need to be having is what can we expect in terms of stand of treatment," Macdonald said. 

WHERE TO GET HELP: 
* Lifeline: 0800 543 354 
* Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends. 
* Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) 
* Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7) 
* Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz 
* What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends) 
* Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7) 
* Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254 
* Healthline: 0800 611 116 
* If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

 - Stuff

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