This was a one off opinion piece I wrote in response to the release of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, published in the NZ Herald Wednesday the 5th of December.
Yesterday He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction was released, the culmination of over 5200 submissions, and 26 public meetings into the state of Mental Health and Addictions treatment in New Zealand.
The report focuses on the need to expand access to treatment, along with a wholesale change to the way that mental health and wellbeing is treated in New Zealand. This includes taking a whole of Government approach to wellbeing, and establishing a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission. It also makes clear that our approach needs to put “people at the centre” of any approach.
It’s hugely encouraging to see the review panel so clearly put people, and their whānau, at the heart of this report, recognise much of the system needs to change, and that there is a clear and urgent need for greatly expanded services to cater to those with so called “mild to moderate” mental health difficulties.
There is clear recognition in the report that our current services are inadequate, and their focus too narrow to capture the needs of a growing number suffering psychological distress and addiction in our communities. Additional funding and new services, especially at the community level, are recommended to address this need.
It is further recommended that the Mental Health Act and the way we administer compulsory treatment be repealed, and replaced with an approach that minimises coercive treatment, along with decriminalising addiction and treating drug use as a health, not a criminal matter. A clear target for suicide reduction is also recommended.
I believe this as an opportunity to radically reshape how we talk about, how we treat, and how as a nation we respond to psychological distress.
It’s now time for the Government to deliver what we can truly call a People’s Mental Health System.
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