‘Missed opportunity’ for mental health
The long-awaited report from the Mental Health Inquiry offered “a once-ina-generation opportunity” and ears to “listen to the people”.
But clinical psychologist Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki believes the recommendations delivered simply resurfaced recommendations made in other reports.
A 10-month Government inquiry into mental health and addiction was last week handed to the Health Minister David Clark who released it on Tuesday.
The resulting 200-page report, He Ara Oranga, was led by former Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson.
The panel heard from thousands of people with experience, wha¯nau, service providers, community groups at 26 public forums from Kaitaia to Invercargill.
It made 40 recommendations and said New Zealand could not medicate or treat its way out of the epidemic of mental distress and addiction affecting all layers of society.
It said political commitment was essential. The panel recognised funding would be required to extend access to mental health and addiction services.
“Mental health is too important to be a political football.
“We think an opportunity exists for politicians to work together on these important issues.”
However, Waitoki said in her view the 40 recommendations missed an opportunity to promote Ma¯ori-led, sustainable solutions that will save, and improve Ma¯ori lives.
Ma¯ori did not need another report with a Ma¯ori name that excluded their voices, she said.
“The report needed to more strongly link the structural racism within the systems of education, health, justice, housing and employment sectors that impact on Ma¯ori mental health and addiction.” She said a stark omission was the impact of climate change, and the voices of takatapui (rainbow community) and wa¯hine Ma¯ori. Waitoki said there was hope in the report indicated through the recommendations to reform the Mental Health Act and increased access to psychological services.
However, she said a major concern for the psychology workforce is the need to embed kaupapa Ma¯ori content in all areas of the discipline.
“The report needed to show a stronger commitment to supporting Ma¯ori, and their whanau. A Ma¯ori Health Commission is needed. A National Ma¯ori Suicide Prevention Strategy is needed.
“The Government needs to work with Ma¯ori to address the lack of voices in these recommendations.”
The report recognised the growing need for access to mental health services for children and youth, and that preventative and early intervention is crucial.
The New Zealand Association of Counsellors youth mental health portfolio holder Christine Macfarlane welcomed the inquiry’s recommendations, but said the Government should address urgent need by increasing funding for school guidance counsellors immediately.
“It’s important that Government invest funding into access to talking therapies through primary, intermediate and secondary schools, and action should be taken sooner rather than later.”
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson was excited that mental health would not be neglected any longer. He said no political party could take the moral high-ground but service providers including himself would keep the pressure on political decision-makers to overcome barriers in implementing the recommendations. been waiting for the inquiry, and the inquiry has instructed them to stop delaying and get going. There is no further justification for delay, too much time and too many lives have been lost.”
The Government would formally respond to the report’s findings by March next year.