People’s Mental Health Review highlights funding, staffing issues

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The Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi is urging the government to pay close attention to the first findings of the People’s Mental Health Review.

To mark Mental Health Awareness week, the Review has published its first submissions from clients, family members and mental health professionals.

They paint a picture of a broken mental health system, where funding is totally inadequate to deal with increasing demand and tragedies are occurring as patients fall through the gaps.

"These stories echo what we’ve been hearing from our members in mental health for months now," PSA Assistant National Secretary Warwick Jones says.

"Mental health workers are suffering burnout and utter exhaustion, and DHBs can’t recruit enough staff to replace them.

"Waitemata was forced to close eight beds at its acute mental health ward, while Auckland DHB currently has 12 vacancies it can’t fill.

"Pressure on urgent services urgently needs to be relieved - and yet community mental health providers are also hopelessly overstretched.

"They need proper resourcing and funding so that acute services are not the first line of defence."

The Ministry of Health has predicted demand for mental health and addiction services will double by 2020, but Mr Jones says the Review is proving the system is well beyond its capacity now.

The PSA represents more than 3000 mental health workers in both the DHB and community sectors.

"The more people speak out, the more the government will have to listen," Mr Jones says.

"We encourage our members to submit their stories to the review, so their voices can be heard.

"And we urge the government to take immediate action to fund mental health properly - and restore the ring-fence around it."