Mental health

Mental health and wellbeing now taken seriously

The Wellbeing Budget announcements indicate that the Government is starting to take mental health seriously, says Zoe Hawke, Mental Health Foundation manager of the Policy and Advocacy and Community Engagement, Health Promotion team.

Zoe Hawke

Ms Hawke who is the Chair of the Health Promotion Forum says the creation of a $1.9 billion mental health package and the Health Minister’s acknowledgement that more funding will be needed over multiple years are evidence of the Government’s commitment.

She refers to significant points made by the Government in the Budget as overall a promising start in addressing mental wellbeing and the number of deaths from suicide, but adds that much more will be needed to turn things around.

“The Budget did try to acknowledge the significance of the suicide prevention issues for Māori, as well as those of Pasifika and Rainbow communities (more could have been done in these areas, and many people will continue to advocate for more, including myself).

“I will also be keeping my eye on the resources for schools pledge, and whether they  also go to kura kaupapa, kohanga and wharekura to ensure equity of outcomes.  Additionally I hope to see that the ongoing development of the workforce includes a well-resourced cultural responsiveness training component,” says Ms Hawke.    

“Fingers crossed we see a continued follow through in future budget commitments to address inequalities that have persisted for way too many years, and which cannot and will not be solved through one budget alone.”  

Ms Hawke says the Wellbeing Budget provides some more context to the Government’s response to He Ara Oranga (the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction), which was released the day before budget announcements.

“In their response to He Ara Oranga the Government accepted in principle, or agreed to further consideration of 38 of the 40 recommendations of the Inquiry Panel.  However many had concerns that the detail was missing on what this would look like. The Wellbeing Budget that followed gave some reassurances  to the mental health sector, and now our work begins on ensuring the implementation of the 38 recommendations and associated funding streams is done effectively.”

Significant points made by the Government in the Wellbeing Budget include:

  • Funding the establishment of a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission provides leadership to hold the government accountable for on-going investment and progress.
  • The Wellbeing Budget shows the start of a commitment to tackle key social determinants of mental health such as housing, child poverty, and family and sexual violence.
  • Acknowledgement of the considerable mental health inequities Māori face. Commitment to address this through allowing a flexible approach to service design and delivery. Iwi based and other Kaupapa Māori services are acknowledged and their development is supported in the plans for major new services for early support for people with mild to moderate needs.
  • Funding of up to eight programmes designed to strengthen personal identity and connection to the community and will also scale up successful kaupapa Māori initiatives
  • On-going development of the mental health workforce
  • Acknowledgment that one size does not fit all and the importance of co-design of services with local communities, people with lived experience of mental distress and the wider mental health sector.
  • Investment of $40 million into suicide prevention.
  • Support for resources to be made available to teachers to promote mental resilience in primary and intermediate schools.
  • Four free sessions of counselling for people bereaved by suicide
  • Acknowledgement that media guidelines needs to be supported (this is important because the evidence is clear that the way we kōrero about suicide in the media can contribute to further harm in our communities).