New focus, investment and action required on mental health

EDITORIAL

The thorny problem of what is being called a mental health crisis in New Zealand has come to the forefront amidst growing concerns about how the country’s patients are treated, and our devastatingly high suicide rate.

Mike King’s resignation from the Government’s suicide prevention panel last week was the latest dramatic development.

The former comedian, who has become a prominent and effective activist in the area of depression and suicide, savagely berated the Government’s “defeatist” attitude, saying it has apparently abandoned a target of reducing the suicide rate in New Zealand by 20 percent over 10 years.

He blasted the “vanilla” language used in the panel’s draft proposal, which he described as an exercise in “arse covering”.

New Zealand has the terrible record of the highest youth suicide rates in the developed world. The subject has also been highlighted by the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which deals with youth suicide.

All of this has created pressure on the Government, with Health Minister Jonathan Coleman forced to defend its handling of mental health — saying the system is facing heavy demand.

He pointed to statistics from the past decade that show demand for secondary mental health and addiction services increased from 2.3 percent of the population to 3.6 percent, from around 96,000 people to 166,000 people a year.

Coleman last week announced a new national improvement programme which would target the country’s high use of seclusion and other restrictive practices — a practice that was slammed in a report by an international researcher released last month by the Human Rights Commission. The $7.5 million initiative is based on the successful Scottish Patient Safety Programme.

Coleman also said there would be more money for mental health in next Thursday’s Budget.

Suicide rates, the quality of mental health services and the difficulty many face accessing them are issues that, without comprehensive action, will remain a major source of controversy and headache for the Government.

The thorny problem of what is being called a mental health crisis in New Zealand has come to the forefront amidst growing concerns about how the country’s patients are treated, and our devastatingly high suicide rate.

Mike King’s resignation from the Government’s suicide prevention panel last week was the latest dramatic development.

The former comedian, who has become a prominent and effective activist in the area of depression and suicide, savagely berated the Government’s “defeatist” attitude, saying it has apparently abandoned a target of reducing the suicide rate in New Zealand by 20 percent over 10 years.

He blasted the “vanilla” language used in the panel’s draft proposal, which he described as an exercise in “arse covering”.

New Zealand has the terrible record of the highest youth suicide rates in the developed world. The subject has also been highlighted by the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which deals with youth suicide.

All of this has created pressure on the Government, with Health Minister Jonathan Coleman forced to defend its handling of mental health — saying the system is facing heavy demand.

He pointed to statistics from the past decade that show demand for secondary mental health and addiction services increased from 2.3 percent of the population to 3.6 percent, from around 96,000 people to 166,000 people a year.

Coleman last week announced a new national improvement programme which would target the country’s high use of seclusion and other restrictive practices — a practice that was slammed in a report by an international researcher released last month by the Human Rights Commission. The $7.5 million initiative is based on the successful Scottish Patient Safety Programme.

Coleman also said there would be more money for mental health in next Thursday’s Budget.

Suicide rates, the quality of mental health services and the difficulty many face accessing them are issues that, without comprehensive action, will remain a major source of controversy and headache for the Government.

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