Better spent building a fence?
The New Conservative party has acknowledged the huge challenges New Zealand faces in the field of mental health, and welcomed the commitment made by the government to addressing that in the 2019 Budget.
Leader Leighton Baker questioned whether that money would be spent at the bottom of the cliff or the top.
“Bottom-of-the-cliff responses, while necessary, will have to be paid this year, next year and indefinitely, whereas top of the cliff preventions look at addressing the issues before they cause problems, and therefore reduce the costs to future generations,” he said.
“Top of the cliff preventions require us to understand the drivers of mental health illness, and there is not just one, so there is no one simple solution.
“However, there are some obvious common denominators that should be addressed if we are serious about positively affecting mental health.”
One of those common denominators was family breakdown.
“It has been said that it is not that there are too many Ma¯ori in prison, but that there are too many people from fatherless homes in prison, and the same applies to mental health,” he said.
“In 1993, researchers from Wisconsin said, ‘We can say with great confidence that father absence is . . . a mental health risk for children’.
“If we are to address mental health, then we do need to support and encourage families to stay together, for the health of their children.”
Cannabis use was another factor.
“The Dunedin longitudinal study found that, study members with regular cannabis use and persistent dependence experienced downward socio-economic mobility, more financial difficulties, workplace problems and relationship conflict in early midlife,” he said.
“Clearly, legalising a substance that causes that sort of harm is not in the best interests of New Zealand’s mental health. Legalisation and control of alcohol has not reduced its harm to society.
“We hope that the government will target the funds announced last week mostly at prevention and not just responding to the nation’s mental health challenges.”