The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) welcomes the recommendations made by Mental Health Commissioner Kevin Allan in his report New Zealand’s mental health and addiction services: The monitoring and advocacy report of the Mental Health Commissioner.
“Half the New Zealand population are living with mental health and wellbeing issues right now,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says.
The report sites evidence that 50-80% of all Kiwis will experience a mental health or addiction problem in their lifetime, with around 20% in any one year.
“We would add to that picture that evidence indicates 50% of Kiwis experience poor mental wellbeing that impacts their lives and can lead to worse mental health; that’s half of all Kiwis not doing well ,” Mr Robinson says.
The MHF is heartened that the Commissioner’s report has a strong emphasis on the need for services to broaden the focus from mental illness and addiction to mental wellbeing and recovery.
“We need to get up-stream of the issues, address drivers of poor mental health such as poverty, and empower people to have lifestyles and community support that build positive mental health and resilience. When people go through tough times it’s essential that they are given the holistic, social and clinical support they need to recover and boost their ongoing wellbeing.
“With mental health issues being of the scale they are, every Kiwi has a stake in how we respond and every part of our society has a role to play,” Mr Robinson says.
“The Commissioner is absolutely right that New Zealand’s response lacks leadership, direction and traction. We urgently need a new blueprint for where our national response is heading and the political, all-of-Government and community leadership to make it happen,” he says.
“The Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction must lead quickly to an action plan that includes strong leadership and clear resourcing,” Mr Robinson adds.
The Commissioner’s report has highlighted areas of innovation and hope, as well as acknowledging people who are not well served by the current approaches.
“We must do things differently as we move forward. Simply pouring more money into the existing mould would be a tragedy.”
The Commissioner’s report points to many areas where change is needed, all of which the MHF support. In particular:
The report highlights poor outcomes for Māori. The traumatic impacts of colonisation and failure of services that don’t reach or work for Māori are apparent – we support the Commissioner’s call for a clear strategy to address this.
• The need for more peer-led initiatives and services, which are showing really positive results.
• An emphasis on early intervention and support within communities.
• Recognition of the value of promoting wellbeing, prevention and positive mental health.
• Acknowledging the impacts of social justice issues such as poverty, racism, and family violence and link efforts to address them in our mental health response.
“The Commissioner’s report is an important summary of where we are at and the challenges New Zealand faces in achieving a mentally flourishing society. While the report shows signs of hope, the issues it points to will not be overcome quickly. Improving our mental health and wellbeing requires sustained effort across all of society.
“The MHF is committed to being part of this process and will continue to advocate for all New Zealanders to have the mental health and wellbeing they deserve,” Mr Robinson says.
*Sovereign Wellbeing Index 2015, the Human Potential Centre AUT University.