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Mental health needs vs. cuts

Written By: - Date published: 7:01 am, April 20th, 2017 - 25 comments
Categories: accountability, activism, class war, health - Tags: , , , , ,

The warning bells have been sounding for a long time now. But The People’s Mental Health Review report (pdf) really puts the issue of the deterioration of our mental health system firmly in the spotlight:

Damning report joins calls for inquiry into country’s stretched mental health services

Pressure is building for the Government to launch an independent inquiry into the mental health sector in the wake of a damning new report.

The People’s Mental Health Review report, released today, canvassed 500 people who have either accessed or worked within mental health services in New Zealand.

Almost 95 per cent of those surveyed had negative experiences of the sector and shared stories of inappropriately long wait times, an over-reliance on medication and an under-resourced, stressed workforce.

“In a number of stories people expressed concern that they couldn’t get the help they needed until their health had deteriorated to the point of crisis,” said ActionStation, the community campaign group behind the survey.

The report recommended urgent funding increases, rolling out mental health education programmes across the country and the reinstatement of the Mental Health Commissioner, to provide independent oversight of the sector.

It also added to recent calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the provision of mental health services – a request made by both the Parents of Children with Additional Needs Collective and the Aotearoa Students’ Alliance just last week.

The Ministry of Health was contacted by the Herald for comment about the People’s Mental Health Review report, but is yet to respond. …

Other coverage:

Cracks in NZ mental health system revealed in review

Police are responding to 90 mental health related calls every 24 hours, a new report has found.

The People’s Mental Health Review was carried out in response to a 2016 announcement funding was being cut from mental health services across the country.

The report made several recommendations, including an urgent funding increase for mental health services, a fully independent oversight of the mental health system, and a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the structure and provision of mental health services.

Labour leader Andrew Little said Kiwis had “huge concern” about publicly-funded mental health services. The number of service users had increased by 60 per cent since the 2007/08 year, he said.

“The report says patients have told ‘a story of frustration at being unable to access mental health services.’ This is a tragic indictment of the Government’s underfunding with many submitters talking of despair and hopelessness. …

The figure of a 60 per cent increase in demand since 2007/08 is staggering.

And National’s response has been to slash funding:
Auckland’s crumbling mental health services
Chch mental health funding slashed despite overwhelming demand
Chch mental health cuts ‘put lives at risk’
Mental health services facing cutbacks (ODT)
Cuts to mental health acute care ill-advised say psychiatrists
Coleman’s cuts create crisis
The stark reality: New Zealand no longer has a functioning Mental Health Service

What with natural disasters, the housing crisis, increasing economic insecurity and inequality, decreasing job security and conditions, and our underlying long term problems with domestic abuse, substance abuse, racism, and suicide – these are difficult times. National’s cuts are part of the problem. I expect that they will try and wait out the report, and do nothing. I hope I’m wrong.


The articles quoted above both have lists of helpline numbers, and here’s one from RNZ:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
  • Sparx online e-therapy tool for young people
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • What’s Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children’s helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
  • Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
  • Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
  • Healthline: 0800 611 116
  • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
  • OUTline 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) provides confidential telephone support on sexuality or gender identity

25 comments on “Mental health needs vs. cuts”

  1. Keith 1

    It’s pretty dire out there and what you have said above is probably an understatement. Mental health workers, like many so called public service workers have had to do more and more with less and less for as long as this National government has been operating.

    There are many holes in the dyke that are spreading and quite frankly long term things are not good. Drug related psychosis from recreational drugs is particularly concerning but those effected and at times badly effected are left to their own devices or demise. And some may argue that is their problem but it also becomes every persons who are near to them also. And far too frequently innocent strangers as well.

    National will monitor this but stating the obvious, if it’s not effecting them in the polls then they will do nothing, let alone the right thing. If it does, expect substantless tinkering purely for appearances sake. Just like immigration and just like the quick infusion of cash for example when police were to axe heavy vehicle inspectors because they are broke.

    Tax cuts have meant National have not enough to pay for such basic humanitarian services and for them people who suffer mental health problems are losers who don’t vote anyway.

  2. ropata 2

    National’s cuts last year were cruel and unjustified, thousands of people were cut off from much needed support. I don’t get it, everyone knows people who have been through depression (1 in 5 people isn’t it?).

    I am thankful for the work of Youthline, the Arahura Centre in Christchurch, and others, for much appreciated help and encouragement through some dark days. I only paid $30 to $50 per hour for these services, without Government funding it would have cost a lot more. And the worst off people could never afford even that.

    Shame on National and their heartless puritan austerity.

  3. Incognito 3

    Living with mental problems or with someone who’s got metal problems is like living in a nightmare that never stops. As with other major health issues such as cancer it deeply affects a lot more people than just the patient.

    I wish the bean counters would stop rolling out the ‘ultimate argument’ as if this settles or solves each & every societal ill:

    Crawshaw said that there had already been an increase in funding. Since 2008/09 the country’s 20 DHBs mental health expenditure had increased by over $300 million from $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion.

    The obvious question to answer is whether all this money actually and effectively reaches its intended targets and it appears that the answer is “no”. So, an enquiry makes perfect sense.

    More importantly than funding the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and tying up other resources such as police to deal with the fallout of poor mental health patients is to look into some of the causes for the poor state of mental health of many people in New Zealand. Only then we can start doing something about prevention.

    Please don’t turn this into yet another political football; people’s lives depend on it

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      Please don’t turn this into yet another political football; people’s lives depend on it.

      In that case, the effects of increased income inequality on mental health must be acknowledged. Don’t listen to any party that has no policies to substantially reduce the GINI.

      • Incognito 3.1.1

        Sure, but this turns a huge problem into an enormous one. I think that it might be better to try and disentangle major issues rather than trying a synchronous simultaneous approach. It often becomes a political football when everything gets lumped together and thrown on the Government’s doorstep usually accompanied by wild accusations, etc.

        I don’t think the so-called holistic approach is always terribly helpful in politics but I am aware that many here on TS might disagree with me.

        It is not even about political pragmatism (expediency) but simply doing what you can with the right inclination.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.1

          Nah it’s not that difficult: we know exactly what was vandalised, and we have plenty of examples of the laws we need to repair the vandalism.

          Anyone who says it’s too difficult probably has a conflict of interest.

          • Incognito 3.1.1.1.1

            In other words:

            If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem

            I can almost taste the subtle flavours of compromise and conciliation in this statement but essentially it is a false dichotomy.

            In my view the world we live in is complex, our society is highly pluralistic, and democracy has to continually balance internal and external forces. There are no easy solutions or fixes which is why we must always aim to improve what we can and move forward into the big unknown that’s called the future.

            Mental health patients need more than a few laws to repair the vandalism and prevention will require much more fundamental changes than can be affected by laws alone. Paradoxically, the more emphasis we place on Law & order the more in trouble our society really is.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.1.1.1

              By “laws” I meant amendments to various acts of Parliament , rather than new legislation. Also, I didn’t say it was easy, especially in the face of intransigent hostility to facts.

              • Incognito

                O.k. that makes it a little clearer but between “it’s not that difficult” and “easy” is not an awful lot of wriggle room 😉

                Have a good weekend.

      • Keith 3.1.2

        “Please don’t turn this into yet another political football; people’s lives depend on it.” Shall we roll over and die, pretend nothing is wrong and just accept this shit?

        Who else is going to fund mental health services if the government does not? It is not a money maker, no shareholders are going to get a return on investment there. Not unless things get thoroughly immoral. I do not think crowd funding will fly, the go to model for funding for every other obligation National has walked away from.

        The government funds mental health or in terms of National it would rather not.
        And if a government fails to meet it obligations because it does not fit with its ideology then it becomes a massive political football. And Nationals decisions to horribly under fund mental health means they have made it a political football!

        • Incognito 3.1.2.1

          Hi Keith,

          Quite possibly, you and I use different meanings of a “political football”.

          IMO it means a sensitive and/or complex issue that is used for political point scoring only and to prevent the opposition from scoring points. It achieves nothing, it solves nothing, and it is always at the expense of others. It is negative, polarising, destructive and puts people off politics. Playing the blame game is often part of the strategy.

  4. Antoine 4

    It would be great to get more resources for mental health, Canterbury understandably seems to have a particularly dire need

  5. Cinny 5

    This needs addressing, properly, mental health touches all of us, directly or indirectly.

    Let’s teach about mental health in schools, this would enable better understanding, teaching kids skills to cope with their own mental health as well as the mental health of others. Imagine kids understanding mental health and as a result they are able to support their parents, peers, themselves etc if they are suffering. This would be a massive tool in the tool box for mental health help and understanding.

    Another issue is kicking women out of hospital so soon after giving birth. Post natal depression is horrendous and sometimes carries on for years. Mum was able to stay in hospital for two weeks when she gave birth to me, breastfeeding was well established, mums were rested, routines/sleeping for baby was established. This does not happen anymore, post natal depression is rife in our country, people are dying, kids are being hurt, mums don’t know what is happening to them and instead are told, oh it’s just the baby blues.
    When mum brought me home as a baby, she also had a 1 year old, and her husband worked full time. Back then there were Karitane Nurses, Karitane nurse would come everyday over two weeks for a number of hours just to help. Not only was that practical health, but mental health as well. I can only imagine how wonderful that would have been.

    I was back at work the day (ran my business from home) after I had my second child, my husband would go away for his job, sometimes 2 months at a time, I had a three year old as well, and no one told me about post natal depression. My baby would not sleep, a four hour stretch was her limit, this went on for a year. During that time I went to the Dr around 15 times, wanting to know why baby wasn’t sleeping, I figured if my baby slept, then I could sleep and everything would be OK.

    Dr decided that all I needed was a pill, take it about 4.30pm just to relax during the end of the day. As a result I ended up totally out to it asleep on the couch with a toddler running around and a baby, they couldn’t wake me for hours. Never took another of those pills, and I felt so bad about that situation, was so lucky nothing bad happened while I was out to it. My mum saved my life, she helped me more than the pill promoting experts ever did. She was so angry that the Dr thought it could all be saved with some sleeping pills and ended up going over the Dr’s head to get me some proper help, while she took it upon herself to look after me.

    I remember at ante natal classes, they drum it into you that husband needs sleep to be able to work, if baby isn’t sleeping, maybe put husband in a seperate room, so he wouldn’t be tired for work. I can’t remember him getting up once for our babies, I would suffer and he would sleep, because that’s what they recommended at ante natal classes.

    We need to educate the people, a few adverts on the telly aint going to cut it. If the people are educated they will be able to help themselves and others. People are dying, our suicide rate is through the roof, and bullying in NZ schools is rife.

    • Antoine 5.1

      > I remember at ante natal classes, they drum it into you that husband needs sleep to be able to work

      I believe this is no longer taught (fortunately)

      A.

      • Cinny 5.1.1

        That would be a relief if they are no longer teaching sleep priority for husbands.

        The chief care giver (female or male) often puts everyone else ahead of themselves, sadly as a result when they burn out the whole house falls apart.

  6. Skeptic 6

    The mental health situation is a bad joke made worse. Those of my age group can remember when – in the 80s and 90s, the changes were announced as “a tremendous step forward to reintegrating mental health back into the community where it belongs” – typical neo-lib speak for “this is too hard for us so we’ll push it back onto the relatives of those unfortunates” – you know – neo-Darwinism at its worst. Now their lack of empathy and funding has come back to bite them on the arse (yet another chicken come home to roost).

    To tackle this one at its root cause is to go back to what Savage tried to do in the 1930s – nationalise the health system. The medical establishment forced a bad compromise that has gradually been eroded over the decades, with mental health being the neo-lib guinea-pig. It’s long been Labour policy to have all health dealt with by the State – free to everyone – that is all health, mental, physical, dental, audio, eyesight, – all of it. The task now is to convince the electorate that in return for free health education, all health care specialists shall henceforth, provide free care to all citizens salaried by the State. I should think that any doctor or health care specialist worthy of their name or reputation, individually and collectively, would jump at the chance of not having to worry about chasing fees, or being thought of as a money grubber. If any doctor or health care specialist wishes to deny their Hippocratic oath and make money of others misfortune or illness – then this country doesn’t need them.

    Mental Health has a lot of over-worked, underpaid professionals in it, along with a ton of volunteers – all trying to make a difference. This has got to change to a fully supported integrated system based on individual needs – just like all health (in its broadest sense) services.

    • Richard McGrath 6.1

      The Hippocratic Oath does not forbid doctors from profiting financially from treating patients. If it did, and was enforceable, doctors would have to treat patients without being paid, either by the patient or otherwise. The Hippocratic Oath forbids doctors from performing abortions. It also obligates doctors to financially support their medical school professors lecturers and tutors in times of need and to train the offspring of their teachers in the art of medicine without charge if they want to do this. It is outdated and has largely been replaced by the Declaration of Geneva 1948.

  7. ankerawshark 7

    Yes there were problems with de-institutionalization, but actually good community care improved enormously under the Clark govt. There was still a long way to go, but there was some funding in place to do it.

    Under National there is no question that there is inadequate funding therefore vastly reduced services.

    Good community care and EARLY intervention in mental health services can be done.
    We need to be guided by evidence based practice and the resourses ( personnal, training and good supervision) need to be extremely well resourced to be effective.

    • michelle 7.1

      Don’t you have to care before you can provide a service ankerawshark the govt we have now only cares about themselves and there rich mates

  8. NZJester 8

    On one hand, a lot of National Party policies are helping increase the need for mental health services, on the other hand, they are slashing the budget while there is increasing demand.
    It shows just how little the general public they are meant to serve matters to the National Party.
    If you are not a well healed National Party Supporter your not their concern.
    Toss them a large donation split into smaller donation funneled in through one of their many methods of claiming them as anonymous donations and they will jump through hoops for you.

  9. Tamati Tautuhi 9

    Mental Health Care in NZ = JOKE

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