21 Feb 2019

Mental health inquiry: Demand for services overwhelming

12:51 pm on 21 February 2019

Politicians have been told pressures on the mental health system are not sustainable and demand is overwhelming.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Members of the Ministerial Inquiry into Mental Health fronted up to the Health Select Committee yesterday, sending a clear message that change must happen.

The six members of the panel travelled the length of the country, receiving more than 5000 thousand submissions and attending 400 meetings.

Inquiry chair Ron Paterson told the committee services were variable, and too often they were provided in old and shabby facilities that were not good for patients or staff.

He said a lack of services offering a continuum of care meant people were struggling to access services.

In addition, more people were subject to compulsory treatment orders or being held with restraints and seclusion.

He also reminded the committee of the strong pubic support there was for a cross-party group on mental health.

"The voices that we heard when we went to schools, from counsellors, from students themselves, from parents, people are absolutely overwhelmed by demand in our communities.

"We think there is an opportunity right across the political parties that are here at this table and the others that who aren't here today to work together ... an enduring commitment into the future.

"The public doesn't want mental health and addiction to be a political football."

Panel member Dean Rangihuna told politicians it was often confronting work, as many families had suppressed their sorrow, frustration and anger for too long.

"We had to field a lot of that as we went across the country, it wasn't easy.

"It wasn't easy to absorb that, it wasn't easy to hear from families, particularly when the families actually bought in some of the clothing that their family members had suicided in. Some of the immense frustrations and directness towards us."

The committee heard how the lack of community services often meant people were receiving no treatment at all, because they did not meet the threshold for hospital treatment.

This was the sixth inquiry into the country's mental health services, the first was 1858.

The government has said it will respond to the inquiry next month.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

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Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

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Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

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