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NZAP PR on Mental Health Enquiry Report and Commission

“Psychotherapists welcome the release of 40 recommendations from the Mental Health and Addictions enquiry” said Lynne Holdem, Public issues spokesperson for the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists. “We have concerns however about the make up of the new “leadership team,” being mostly drawn from DHBs and the existing power structures. This does not give us much hope for a major rethink on what the Government intends as healing for the sickness at the heart of Aotearoa’s mental health system,” she added.

“Psychotherapists recommend that the DHBs not administer the pool of funding for community mental health since it is so rooted in the pharmaceutical and medical model. Wellbeing hubs should be set up that include mental health practitioners but are managed in the community, by the community and for the community,” Holdem said.

“The neo-liberal agenda and culture of managerialism implemented by previous governments throughout the Mental Health system has created a burned out, cynical, survivalist culture within the DHB system that creates the very ill-health that it is supposed to be treating. Long waiting lists create a depressing burden for clinicians; time pressures corrode the kindness required for good relationships with patients makes clinicians anxious. A system of management that does not treat workers with respect and compassion makes everyone hopeless, despairing and mad. Reduction of clinical supervision and cost cutting on training for mental health workers removed buffers of resilience.” Holdem said.

“Mental health needs to be seen in an ecological context. It is not delivered through a prescription, even a green one, because our mental health is not an individual matter. The well-being and resilience of each individual is supported by the invisible but vital structures of belonging, the connections we have with whānau, hapū and iwi; and for Pākehā with families, workmates and our neighbours.The response to the current mental health crisis needs to go much wider than the Ministry of Health and include systemic changes to fight poverty, unemployment and income disparity,” said Holdem.

“Loneliness and lack of opportunities to make meaningful contribution to our fellow citizens, creates mental ill-health as surely as burning fossil fuels has created climate change. The overwhelming crisis in the mental health of our young, the alarming increase in self-harming, suicidal behaviours, is directly linked to the erosion of community structures of belonging that provided a holding for their transition from dependence within a family to the achievement of an adult role through work or other contributions, within a community. This is a key developmental task of adolescence and a major aspect of identity formation,” said Holdem.

Thousands of representatives from families, communities, whānau, hapū and iwi who made sacrifices to attend Mental Health and Addictions hearings poured out gut-wrenching stories of family losses or of being turned away or treated unkindly by mental health staff in moments of crisis. “A Leadership Team composed of the ‘usual suspects’ with negligible diversity, family and consumer representation, seems unlikely to lead the kind of systemic change that the community has diagnosed and provided evidence of, in the current Mental Health and Addiction system,” Holdem said.

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