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Commission Appointments: A Backward Step

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Mental Health Commission Appointments: A Backward Step

People who use mental health services and many others in the mental health sector will be shocked that the Minister of Health chose not to appoint a person with lived experience of mental illness, as one of the three new commissioners at the Mental Health Commission.

Mary O’Hagan, a former mental health commissioner with lived experience, who resigned last year, joins with Central Potential, the central regions mental health service user network, in condemning the decision.

‘There’s been a commissioner with lived experience since the Commission opened’, said Mary O’Hagan in Wellington today. ‘Our presence in such a senior role has had huge symbolic and strategic importance for service users, the national mental health sector and internationally. This is a backward step and a big blow to innovation and service user leadership in New Zealand.’

O’Hagan said, ‘The minister doesn’t seem to understand that the mental health system should be primarily accountable to the people who use it. He was either badly advised about the appointments, ignored the advice he was given, or doesn’t understand the mental health sector.’

The Mental Health Commission was formed as a result of the Mason Inquiry in 1996. Judge Mason recommended three commissioners, one of whom was to be Maori and the other a mental health service user. To date Maori and service users have always been appointed as recommended.

‘The minister has chosen to stick to precedent by appointing a Maori commissioner’, O’Hagan said. ‘We want to know why he decided not to appoint a commissioner with lived experience of mental illness.’


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