People’s review of the public mental health system launches today
Today marks the start of an innovative and powerful project aimed at improving New Zealand’s public mental health system by letting those within the system share their stories online.
Although all Kiwis would hope to live in good mental health, the reality for one in six New Zealand adults* is very different – and for them and their families, the expectation that they should be able to get help when they need it is vital.
But there are signs that the public mental health system designed to offer this help is in crisis. Those most in need are experiencing long waiting times for support; the lack of resources is leading to an increased reliance on the use of isolation as a form of care; and the country is experiencing alarmingly high levels of suicide.
The Ministry of Health has rejected repeated calls for a Government review of the public mental health system, so a group of New Zealanders including comedian Mike King, psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald and community campaign group ActionStation have decided to run their own.
The People’s Review of the Mental Health System is designed to allow anyone involved with mental health in New Zealand – from mental health professionals to those with either personal or family experience of the system – to tell their story via a purpose-built website, publicmentalhealthreview.nz.
The website will collect stories for three months and begin to publish them as part of its review at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week on October 10.
The review is founded on the belief that those calling for change don’t need more statistics – instead, stories will help personalise the problems within the system, galvanise popular support and force the Government to take notice. And, hopefully, provoke a Royal Commission of Inquiry or a Ministerial Inquiry into New Zealand’s Public Mental Health System.
The aim is to develop a full picture of how the system is performing right now: the good, the bad, and everything in between, and organisers are urging anyone with a story to tell – either directly or indirectly – to take part.
“The only voice missing from the debate on mental health services is the voice of those who use the service. For the sake of balance we need your stories.” says King, who is also an Ambassador for the Key to Life Trust. “We need to hear more from those who are trying to access mental health services, these voices need to be heard.”
Because sharing personal stories about mental health can be tough, the review’s website publicmentalhealthreview.nz has been designed to allow those taking part to remain anonymous if they want, or to record their story using video, audio or text.
“I hear so many stories of people struggling to access services, not being able to see a therapist or a psychiatrist, from clients and clinicians, that I thought it was important to bring those voices to the public.” says MacDonald. “We’ve done everything we can to make sure people can tell their stories safely, and anonymously if they wish. The important thing is to get the real picture of what’s happening in our mental health services. That’s our aim.”
For more information on The People’s Review of the Mental Health System:
* In the 2012/13 New Zealand Health Survey, one in six New Zealand adults (16%, or an estimated 582,000 adults) had been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some time in their lives (including depression, bipolar disorder and/or anxiety disorder). Mental Health Foundation 2014