Suicide prevention strategy 'the responsibility of all of us'
Comedian and mental health advocate Mike King has resigned from New Zealand's suicide prevention panel, saying the Government's draft plan is "deeply flawed".
But it's not just the Government's plan, the Ministry of Health has pointed out. It's a framework for how New Zealanders can work together to reduce suicide, and Kiwis are encouraged to take part in the public consultation process.
King has been a member of the panel since it was set up in December, 2015. Its role is to help shape the country's suicide prevention strategy for the next decade.
On Monday, King sent his letter of resignation to Ministry of Health's director of mental health, Dr John Crawshaw.
In the letter, King said he felt increasingly concerned about aspects of the draft plan, which is open to public consultation.
In response, Crawshaw said he first wanted to acknowledge King's "passion and commitment".
"In my response to Mike, I'll be thanking him for his work, and also recognising the special connection he has with New Zealanders. His energy and drive will no doubt be ongoing as we all continue the work to reduce suicide."
However, Crawshaw added, it's important to note the draft plan was released more than a month ago, on April 12.
Since then, the Ministry has been consulting widely, with meetings held in various locations around the country.
"The draft strategy Mike refers to is setting out a vision of how we can work together to prevent suicide; it's the responsibility of all of us.
"No one person or organisation can prevent suicide; we all need to be involved from government agencies, to employers, neighbours and families."
In his letter, King described the draft plan as "broad and vanilla".
"Unfortunately all I see when I look at the new Draft Proposal is more of the same i.e. Pandering to minority groups, continuing to fund failed experiments and further isolation for vulnerable New Zealanders," he said.
"It would be funny if people weren't dying.
"I therefore resign from the external review panel, effective immediately and I will be publicly advising people of my stand. I believe this whole process is deeply flawed, and being conducted in bad faith."
Labour deputy leader Jacinda Ardern said King's departure showed the Government was failing on mental health.
"Mental health is reaching crisis point in New Zealand after years of National's $1.7 billion worth of cuts to health.
"It's clear the Government's approach is, sadly, now driving away some of the people who can do important work in this area.
"Mike King has been an outstanding advocate for better mental health in New Zealand for the past decade. His departure should be a major red flag.
"[He] is right. Since 2007/08, there's been a 60 per cent increase in people accessing mental health services, but funding increases have been less than half of that over the same period."
WHERE TO GET HELP
*Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354
*Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757
*Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116
*Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666
*Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
*Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email email@example.com
*0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
*Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
*Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
*Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).