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Mental Health Groups Call For Urgent Investment In Open Letter To Minister

An alliance of mental health organisations is urging the Minister for Mental Health, Matt Doocey and the Coalition Government to invest in the Aotearoa New Zealand’s mental health system in an open letter.

This letter comes in response to the government’s glaring omission of health, mental health and addiction in their budget policy statement as priority areas.

Around 260,000 New Zealanders live with moderate-to-severe mental illnesses and the demand for mental health services is steadily rising.

The 2018 He Ara Oranga Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction found that “in addition to the human costs, the annual cost of the burden of serious mental illness, including addiction, in New Zealand is an estimated $12 billion or 5% of gross domestic product.”

Dr Hiran Thabrew, Chair of Tu Te Akaaka Roa, the RANZCP New Zealand National Committee said we can’t afford to neglect mental health in the upcoming budget.

“The most vulnerable are falling through the cracks because our system does not have the capacity to give them the support they desperately need.

“New Zealanders are struggling to access help in a system that is often disjointed, chronically understaffed and under resourced. How is that conducive to effective and therapeutic mental health care?

“On the other end is a workforce faced with immense stress, burnout, and exhaustion due to heavy and unsustainable workloads.

“With dedicated funding for mental health and addiction, we can provide life-saving support to people with mental illnesses and addiction issues, reduce strain on our workforce and public health systems, and empower New Zealanders to lead fulfilling lives.

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“There is also a strong economic case for investment in mental health – better mental health improves productivity, educational and professional outcomes, physical health, and overall wellbeing.

“We encourage the Coalition government to prioritise mental health care for our communities in the upcoming budget through targeted and sustained investment,” Dr Thabrew said.

Jodie Bennett from Changing Minds said, “We were very disappointed in the omission of mental health as a priority area in the latest budget policy statement. This is an oversight our Lived Experience community expects answers on as a matter of priority.”

John Moore, CEO of Yellow Brick Road said, “By investing in preventative wellbeing services and family and whānau focussed services we can reduce the number of individuals and whānau in crisis. Family and whānau are the largest provider of mental health support, by funding whānau focussed services we can support them to provide that care more effectively and keep themselves well at the same time.”

Sarah Dalton, Executive Director Toi Mata Hauora | Association of Salaried Medical Specialists said, “Nearly 20% of all psychiatry FTE in the public system is currently vacant. Substantial investment in the recruitment and retention of our mental health and addiction workforce is critical to addressing skyrocketing unmet need.”

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