28 Sep 2020

National promises 'zero suicides' strategy, mental health minister

4:35 pm on 28 September 2020

National would bring in a zero suicides strategy and install New Zealand's first minister for mental health if elected.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The party's health spokesperson Shane Reti and mental health spokesperson Matt Doocey announced the party's mental health strategy in Christchurch this morning.

With $179m of additional spending, the party would:

  • Establish New Zealand's first minister for mental health - $2m
  • Provide an integrated network of mental health services through a 'national stepped care approach' for commissioning and delivering services - $2m
  • Establish a mental health support package for small and medium businesses - $10m
  • Invest in a contestable fund to establish free psychological first aid training - $10m
  • Maternity support: introduce funding to allow a woman experiencing postnatal symptoms to visit their GP, allowing time to talk through symptoms and be assessed and referred - $10m
  • Urgently fund 100,000 free Covid-19 counselling sessions - $11m
  • National mental health campaign providing online resources and scaling up the 'It's Alright' campaign from after the Canterbury earthquakes - $12m
  • Mental wellbeing and suicide prevention workshops in rural communities - $16m
  • Commit to a nationwide 'Zero Suicides' comprehensive multi-sector suicide prevention strategy similar to Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom - $40m
  • Require primary, intermediate and secondary schools to deliver a skills-based mental health and resilience training program, with a focus on cyberbullying
  • Fund a new, fit for purpose baseline study of children and young people to understand the context and conditions underpinning the mental health of New Zealand's youth - $3m
  • Strengthen frontline services with a primary care navigator in every General Practice (already announced in the party's health policy)
  • Methamphetamine addiction treatment - $63m

In a statement, Doocey said mental health was just as important as physical health.

"Labour promised big on mental health but have failed to deliver, only being able to spend 7 percent of the funding they announced for mental health and only equipping four percent of general practitioners with new frontline services," he said.

Dr Reti said New Zealanders deserve world class mental health care.

"This is in line with National's core health focus of delivering frontline services sooner so New Zealanders can access high quality services no matter where they live or who they are."

Party leader Judith Collins said mental health was one of the biggest health issues in New Zealand and could not continue to be ignored.

"Mental health affects every family that I'm aware of ... every ethnicity, every strata of society, everybody," she said.

"If we don't try to get zero suicides we just keep meandering on at the moment, I mean I can't remember the numbers at the moment - it's about 700 last year. These are awful statistics, twice the road toll ... and you think about the huge efforts put into the road toll."

In the year to June 2020, 654 people died from suicide.

Other political leaders respond

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says that mental health actually needs to be integrated into the entire health system.

"I disagree with the idea of having a mental health minister. Mental health ... and mental health support needs to be provided across all of healthcare. That's why we've been rolling out a plan to have it available at your GP clinic, at your iwi health centre, at your youth centre.

"We've already started that - 33,000 extra consultations and counselling services provided for New Zealanders as a result of those plans and that will only grow."

Ardern says the rollout of mental health services has been staged because the workforce has to be established.

"It simply wasn't there ... our plan is over the next few years to have in every doctor's clinics or medical centres the ability to access primary mental health care. It will be a game changer."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says plans proposed for mental health are "great" but "when you set a target that's impossible [zero suicides] as you are voting and advocating, as some of them are, for euthanasia, then what do they take the public to be, in that context?

"It's ridiculous, to make that sort of target your promise."

Read more about the 2020 election:

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

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

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

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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