The Labour-led Government has fulfilled one of its 100-day plan pledges, announcing the creation of a ministerial inquiry into mental health.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark jointly announced the inquiry at the Beehive Theatrette, which will have to report back by the end of October and also include the area of addiction. Clark said he considered creating a full Royal Commission, but wanted recommendations more swiftly than that would allow.
The announcement follows campaigns by mental health consumer groups and others last year about staff shortages, treatment delays and poor quality treatment. There has also been a big increase in underlying demand, which the inquiry will look at. There were 170,000 people who used mental health and addiction services in 2016/17, up 71 per cent over the last decade.
The formally named Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction will be chaired by former Health and Disability Commissioner, Professor Ron Paterson. Other members of the inquiry panel include former Mental Health Commission executive chair Dr Barbara Disley, Massey University Maori Studies professor Sir Mason Durie, forensic Maori consumer advisor for the Canterbury DHB Dean Rangihuna, Health Research Council member Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, and youth development expert Josiah Tualamali’i.
“There are a lot of committed and highly skilled people working in mental health but it’s clear not everyone is getting the help they need. That has to change. We have to do better," Ardern said.
“We know that services are stretched. Demand has grown rapidly in recent years," she said.
“Nothing is off the table. We all know we have a problem with mental health in this country and our suicide rate is shameful. It is well past time for us to do something about it."