Taking mental health and addiction seriously

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
  • Hon Dr David Clark
Prime Minister Health

The Government’s response to He Ara Oranga (the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction) shows just how seriously the Government is taking mental health and addiction says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The Government has accepted, accepted in principle, or agreed to further consideration of 38 of the 40 recommendations of the Inquiry Panel.

“The Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction laid down a challenge to the Government and to all New Zealanders. We need to transform our thinking and approach to mental health and addiction – and that is what we are committing to today,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We all know people who have lived with mental health and addiction challenges. This touches every community and every family and we must do better.”

Inquiry recommendations accepted include:

  • Significantly increase access to publicly funded mental health and addiction services for people with mild to moderate needs
  • Commit to increase choice by broadening the types of services available
  • Urgently complete the national suicide prevention strategy
  • Establish an independent commission to provide leadership and oversight of mental health and addiction
  • Repeal and replace the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992

“The recommendations of He Ara Oranga are wide-ranging and comprehensive. Delivering on the Panel’s vision of a people-centred approach to mental health and addiction that meets the full range of need will be a major undertaking.

“Just delivering on the first recommendation around services to meet mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs will be transformational.

“We will need to build entirely new services, train hundreds of new staff and build new facilities across Aotearoa.

“All this will take significant and sustained investment. That begins with tomorrow’s Wellbeing Budget but will take years,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Health Minister David Clark says for too long mental health has been considered somehow less important than physical health and that has to change.

“It has been said before, but there really is no health without mental health.

“Supporting and maintaining people’s mental wellbeing must become part of the daily routine of our health services. When New Zealanders are in distress they need to know there is appropriate support available and it has to be easily accessible.”

The Government rejected two of the Inquiry’s recommendations:

  • Directing the State Services Commission to report on options for creating a ‘locus of responsibility’ for social wellbeing within Government
  • Set a target of 20% reduction in suicide rates by 2030

Health Minister Dr David Clark said all of Government needs to be focused on social wellbeing and it does not need its own separate agency.

He said the question of a suicide target was considered at length, and as acknowledged in He Ara Oranga, views are mixed about establishing a target.

“We’re not prepared to sign up to a suicide target because every life matters, and one death by suicide is one death too many.

“This Government is committed to tackling our terrible record on suicide. The Ministry of Health is in the process of finalising a draft suicide prevention strategy and is working on options for an office of suicide prevention.

“There are no quick-fixes for these issues. The drivers of mental health and addiction issues are deep seated and long standing, but as a Government we are committed to tackling them.

“New Zealanders in distress deserve our support, plain and simple,” said David Clark.