Mental health funding increase welcome, but New Zealand needs deeper change
10 Sep 2019
The Public Service Association welcomes the government’s decision to inject millions of dollars into frontline mental health services.
Thousands of PSA members work in a range of occupations delivering mental health and addiction services, and they consistently report the system is in crisis and they lack resources to meet community need.
The union is pleased that funding boosts for General Practitioners and kaupapa Māori services will increase access and help decrease stigma.
A long-term plan is needed to shift service provision away from an inefficient competitive model toward a more collective and cooperative alternative.
"Funding constraints have for too long limited mental health services to being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, often accessible only after someone has already reached crisis point and sometimes difficult to access even then," says PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies.
"This funding increase highlights the need for both early intervention and crisis support services for us to have a fully functioning mental health and addiction system. It’s a positive step towards expanding access to mental health support for those with mild to moderate needs."
Disparities in pay, conditions and training currently exist between workers in different parts of the sector, undermining the ability of some providers to retain employees in high-need areas and causing disconnection between staff and their peers.
"It’s not unusual for a mental health patient to receive support from multiple specialists in different areas, and we want the different sections of the mental health system to communicate and cooperate with each other effectively," says Ms Davies.
A report from the Mental Health & Addiction Inquiry has been accepted by the government, which recommends those who receive and deliver mental health and addiction services help design the systems they are a part of.
A well-resourced system of both early intervention and crisis support must be complemented by fundamental economic and social change, in order to tackle the inequality and poverty exacerbating New Zealand’s mental health and addiction problems.
"Mental illness is often made worse by long shifts at stressful jobs that don’t pay enough. It’s made worse by cold damp houses that make us sick, and by a culture that atomises people and divides us from one another instead of nurturing collective institutions and values," says Ms Davies.
"Additional government funding will save lives and we are happy to see it, but much greater change is needed before we live in a safe and supportive society."