Prescribing different approach to treating mental illnesses
As a health professional with a busy East Auckland practice, Barry Kirker is working on the front-line and witnessing what he and many have been saying for a while, that the provision of public mental health services is in "crisis".
"All too often resources that could be targeted to community-based early intervention are absorbed by expensive, mostly ineffective crisis management services and this is happening with the provision of other services throughout the country," he says.
"Outside of mental health, people have concerns about the inadequate services for aged care and the corporate focus and profiteering that's occurring in private facilities, as well as the crisis around housing affordability, especially in Auckland."
The Labour Party candidate for the Pakuranga electorate in the September 23 general election is critical of the National Government's response in this year's Budget to the calls for more resources for the public mental health arena.
"It's only providing an additional $25 million a year on mental health services funding. Half is going to have to come out of district health budgets, which they can't afford," Kirker says.
"The new funding equates to just over $1m a year to deal with mental health and addictions.
"To put this in context, mental health service demand has increased by 60 per cent since 2007/8, but funding has only kept up with half, from $1.096 billion to $1.4b.
"The $25m is a drop in the bucket. It won't even come near to covering the shortfall due to demand.
"Mental health care has become a major problem in New Zealand. Because it's not something you can always see with the eye, it isn't given the priority it should receive."
Kirker, a Pakuranga-based psychologist entering his second campaign for his local parliamentary seat, says he's supportive of the recent announcement of his Labour Party that it will "place registered health care professionals into high schools".
"That will help improve physical health and reduce rates of suicide and depression.
"We will ensure our friends, family members, neighbours and everyone in our community needing good mental health care gets it by properly funding and co-ordinating support."