The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) welcomes the inquiry into mental health and addiction by the government, details of which were announced this week.
The need for such a review is underlined by the high suicide, growing substance abuse rates and the difficulty that many vulnerable people face when seeking access to services.
Demand for mental health services in particular have risen over the past decade at an alarming rate; the need for greater investment in service capacity is acute.
ANZASW welcomes the observation in the inquiry’s terms of reference that social determinants such as poverty, inequality and neglect play a role in affecting the mental health of New Zealanders. The link between economic deprivation and health is a crucial one and must be factored into any move to address the twin crises that the inquiry is intending to tackle.
We also welcome the recognition of the need for cross-governmental efforts by agencies to address the mental health crisis in Aotearoa New Zealand and the emphasis on the need for early intervention. It is also appropriate and necessary that the government has allowed for the possibility of private hearings, in which criticisms can be made by practitioners within the system anonymously.
The move to increase funding for alcohol and drug addiction services, as mentioned in the terms of reference document, also marks a hopeful step in the right direction. More resources also need to be made available for those working in the Mental Health sector, as demand continues to rise.
The terms of reference also refer to the need to achieve better mental health outcomes for the Maori and Pasifika communities, given that these have been declining over recent years. ANZASW agrees that this is an important issue and looks forward to renewed efforts to engage with the problem.
Overall, the panel has a high level of expertise and brings a strong Maori and Pasifika voice. However, ANZASW would have liked to have seen representation of the LGBTIQ community on the panel, with a focus on doing more to address the high suicide rate amongst that community.