The New Zealand Union of Students Associations has celebrated the long awaited Government response to He Ara Oranga - Government Inquiry into the Mental Health and Addiction, as firm and decisive action needs to be taken to address the New Zealand mental health crisis.
President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations James Ranstead said that ‘for the first time in New Zealand’s history, a national approach to tackling those with mild to moderate mental health issues has been taken, and the types of services available have been broadened.
“For too long we have been treating mental health as an issue that is alien to the vast majority of society, and really only providing the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Today that changes”.
Updating the mental health strategy will go a long way towards addressing the needs of youth and students of the 21st century, as will repealing and replacing the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992”.
The announcement of the independent mental health commission was seen as a massive win by Mental Health Advocate and Lincoln University student Sam Blackmore, saying that “the establishment of a commission is huge and definitely needed. Now we need to make sure that this commission is filled with the right people, particularly those with lived experiences and within the demographic at risk. We acknowledge that there are ‘no quick fixes’ however getting the right people around the table and setting some direction is an easy first step to seeing some lasting change to mental health in New Zealand. Young kiwis need to be able to access the mental health sector, and sometimes - especially for our tertiary students - the cost of access makes this unattainable.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations did agree with the Government that one death by suicide ‘is too many’, and that we need a humanised approach to effectively treat an issue that has in large part arisen by the lack of humanisation in society.
“People need to be treated as a name, not a number. If they were going to put in a target, that target should be zero, because every life counts. New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the developed world, and these statistics are broadcast annually. We will know if these accepted recommendations are having an impact ”, said Blackmore.
Sexual Violence was also addressed within the report, and NZUSA's Vice President and Thursdays In Black Co-ordinator said
"The Government's commitment to ending sexual violence will have a positive impact on mental health in New Zealand society. We welcome the significant increase to funding for survivors with mild to moderate needs""
NZUSA recognise that the exact numbers to back these announcements up will come tomorrow with the release of the budget, and that many of the recommendations are yet to be finally decided upon.
“These statements need to be met with the adequate level of resourcing to achieve success. This Government also needs to seriously address the other recommendations that are yet to be completely decided upon. NZUSA will be watching closely” said NZUSA President James Ranstead.