This week is Mental Health Awareness week. The culture around mental health in New Zealand has come leaps and bounds from where it was even five years ago. I congratulate everyone who has helped bring about this culture change and raise awareness about mental health issues, and I thank them for doing so.
However, this press release from the Ministry of Health is worrying.
The key message for World Suicide Prevention Day is that help is available to people who need it.
The release points us to thelowdown.co.nz, The Journal (with no URL) and the Depression Helpline.
That’s all you get.
They miss out and play down other wonderful services available to people with mental health problems, such as
- Mental Health foundation (and their mental health awareness week page!)
- Supporting Families with Mental Illness
- Youthline Call 0800 376633 or Free TXT 234
- Balance NZ
They are also silent on how to access mental health services through your GP and DHB.
Mental health officials are urging people to seek help on Suicide Prevention Day. They say help is available for them and their loved ones but are they doing enough to help when all they promote is nothing except for a website?
There are also worrying signs that some of the progress previously hard won on mental health is being undone. I spoke in the House recently against the Government’s plan to roll the Mental Health Commission into the Health and Disability Commissioner’s office. There is clear evidence that DHBs are using money intended for mental health in other areas. Primary care referral to a Clinical Psychologist for free sessions is now only available for Maori, Pasifika and people with a Community Services Card. These services used to be for everyone, until the National Government cut them.
This Government needs to make a commitment to funding mental health services and promoting them adequately so that everyone can get the help they need and live happier lives.