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Schizophrenia Fellowship - Novartis Art Awards

25 July 2002


Jim Anderton MP

Leader of the Progressive Coalition

Sharing our talents

6:00 pm

Thursday, 25 July 2002

Schizophrenia Fellowship - Novartis Art Awards

2nd Floor, Nga Taonga Maori Area, Christchurch Library, Gloucester St

The Progressive Coalition wants a society where all New Zealanders can participate and feel they belong.

This means young and old, people in large cities as well as in our regions and smaller communities.

We mean all New Zealanders.

One group in our community which has not always been encouraged to develop their talents is those who suffer from mental illness.

I want to see people who have suffered from mental health episodes encouraged and supported to participate fully in New Zealand society.

To do this we need to treat the causes, as well as provide decent systems, for the care and cure of mental illness.

This challenge will require a coordinated approach across the whole of government, combining strategies for reducing poverty, the use of drugs, measures to improve the wellbeing of families and communities, economic development, job opportunities - and comprehensive health care.

Spending on mental health was $788 million in the last year. This is just over 10% of Vote Health.

Since this Government came to power spending on the care of mental illness has risen by 32.7% or 9.9% p.a. This is real progress towards the implementation of the Mason Report and the Blueprint for Mental Health.

We all know the causes of many mental illnesses are complex, but some major risk factors are absolutely clear: social isolation, failure of supportive relationships, unemployment, and poverty.

A hidden epidemic of depression weighs down far more people in New Zealand than official statistics show. An explosion in the use of anti-depressants points to the problem. Unless we deal with the causes, the cost projection in both human and financial terms, 10 years out, is staggeringly expensive. It is, however, the human cost which is most important.

New Zealand will never achieve all that is possible for us, unless we encourage all our citizens to lead fulfilling lives.

The Progressive Coalition ambition is that no individual or family should have to cope with mental illness in isolation.

We also want to see:

- Prompt, appropriate and free mental health services available for all New Zealanders who need them.

- Appropriate secure facilities, so that everyone involved - patients, families and communities are safe.

- Factors associated with mental illness being addressed comprehensively across all areas of government.

Many well known New Zealanders have experienced mental illnesses.

In the context of these art awards Keri Hulme, Janet Frame and James K Baxter come to mind.

Split Enz’s Mike Chunn has talked of his experiences.

Many well known artists have had some form of mental illness as well.

Although there is the international example of Vincent Van Gogh and his struggles, in New Zealand we have had Tony Fomison and Philip Clairmont.

Without their contributions to New Zealand culture we would be significantly poorer. Those who suffer from mental health episodes are all too often highly sensitive, intelligent and insightful members of the New Zealand community.

At any one time about 3 in 1,000 of the population are suffering from schizophrenia and over a lifetime about 1% will suffer from the illness.

Some argue that during a lifetime one in five people will suffer from some form of mental health episode, although this claim is often disputed. What is clear is that there are a significant number of New Zealanders and their families who are affected by a significant number of mental health disorder.

This is an issue which, in the end, affects us all.

I am pleased to see art awards such as this which encourage more New Zealanders to share their talents and skills with us.


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