Keeping its campaign promises, the government has announced an inquiry into mental health. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that the government will undertake a ministerial inquiry seeking to improve New Zealand’s mental health and addiction services.
“Mental health and addiction are issues for all New Zealanders,” Ardern said. “Most of us will know a friend or whanau member that has faced a mental health challenge in their lives. Plenty have reached out and received the support required, but too many still have unhappy stories to tell.”
Ardern added that mental health resources were limited. “We know that services are stretched. Demand has grown rapidly in recent years. In 2016/17 more than 170,000 people used mental health and addiction services – that’s up by 71% on a decade earlier,” she said. “We want to hear from service users, the wider community and the mental health sector about their experience and expectations. Improving our mental health is something we can all play a part in.”
The inquiry is hoped to reduce New Zealand’s suicide and depression rates. “We all know we have a problem with mental health in this country and our suicide rate is shameful,” Ardern asserted. “It is well past time for us to do something about it. We should not pretend that this will be easy, but the Government is committed to taking action to improve the lives of people living with mental health issues.”
The Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction will be chaired by Professor Ron Paterson, the former Health and Disability Commissioner. Paterson will report back to the government in October this year, Ardern said.