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Voters Should Know Which Parties Prioritise Young People’s Mental Health

Following a year of global pandemic outbreak, with DHBs across our country facing blow-out deficits, and young people reporting increasing levels of depression and anxiety, there is perhaps nothing more important for voters to scrutinise the Parties by, than whether they have prevention strategies for the health and mental health care of New Zealand’s children.

Tick for Kids, the Equality Network, the Public Health Association of New Zealand, Child Poverty Action Group and United Community Action Network are hosting together Child Well-Being: election forum on health and mental health this Wednesday on September 30th. Wellington City Councillor Tamatha Paul will MC the event and confirmed Party representatives to date are Minister of Health Chris Hipkins for Labour, Minister for Children Tracey Martin for NZ First, Co-Leader Marama Davidson for the Green Party, Grae O’Sullivan for Act and Jessica Hammond for TOP.

New Zealand’s rapid rise in youth psychological distress and suicide rates over the last decade must not be ignored. The Youth Mental Health in Aotearoa New Zealand (Sept 2020) report states there is an urgent need to identify youth-specific risk and protective factors to inform effective prevention strategies that can be implemented from early childhood through to adolescence and young adulthood.

We urge voters to search for candidates that emphasise not just their Party’s investment in mental health services, but collaboration with young people to co-design youth-specific and culturally responsive solutions for better mental health outcomes. That’s why on Wednesday, we’ve invited first time and young voters to ask the questions to our candidates, while we hope their peers will tune in for the Party representatives’ answers.

It was estimated recently that the DHBs of New Zealand have a collective deficit of at least $885 million, with the sector hit hard by the costs of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the pandemic only exacerbated great gaps in our service delivery caused by longstanding underfunding of health and an inefficient, fragmented health and disability system.

Due to the health demands of a diverse and ageing population, DHBs have to keep providing more services than they’re funded for, and where their service delivery falls short, real New Zealanders suffer poor outcomes, or end up having to pay for what should be free.

This is most often the case for New Zealanders with rare or long term conditions, disabilities and mental health conditions. Members of these groups are driven into poverty by the cost burden being passed onto them by the system. This happens when they have to pay through their lifetime for appointments and prescriptions, wait long periods for standard procedures and assessments; often missing out on employment or even going out and taking part in society.

These are more than monetary costs. Waiting for a system to help you keeps you isolated and less productive, perhaps falling depressed because of it. The health system’s failure becomes the mental health system’s problem to resolve, a pipeline of failure that could have, should have been prevented.

Parties should be showing us targeted policy solutions to resolve these inequities in our system. We hope voters want to learn which Party will invest in updating both our health and disability system and our mental health system, to serve all populations equitably, particularly our children.

The Child Well-Being Election Forum will be broadcast live on Twitch @RaiseYourVoices, on Facebook Livestream, Zoom webinar and before a live limited Wellington audience at St John’s in the City, Dixon St.

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