The People’s Mental Health Report

The People’s Mental Health Report, resulting from a review lead by ActionStation, is yet another nail in the coffin of New Zealand’s mental health system. It is damning evidence of what we already knew; the country is in crisis. So, what next?

The People’s Mental Health Review was run by ActionStation in conjunction with  psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald and comedian and mental health advocate Mike King.

They invited anyone involved with mental health in New Zealand  –  from mental health professionals to those with either personal or family experience of the system  –  to tell their story.

Those stories have now been collected into the People’s Mental Health Report, comprising of 500 first person accounts about mental health experiences in New Zealand.

The report details long wait times, a lack of suitable treatment options and an under-resourced and stressed workforce. Those most in need are not getting adequate support; the lack of resources is leading to an increased reliance on the use of isolation as a form of care; and New Zealand is experiencing alarmingly high levels of suicide.

It calls for urgent funding increases for mental health services, an independent inquiry into mental health in New Zealand, and restoration of the Mental Health Commission.

  • See the downloadable report summarising the key themes raised in more than 500 stories submitted
  • Four key recommendations for Government based on those themes.
  • An invitation to sign up to an open letter calling on the government to implement the recommendations.

In an email from ActionStation, Marianne Elliott, director of story and strategy said: “Prime Minister Bill English has responded to the report, admitting that there is a lot more the Government could do. He also committed to “more money for more people” in the coming Budget. We don’t yet know how much.

The PM said he had read some of the stories in the report, and acknowledged “those are real concerns”. But he also said there would not be a review of the mental health system, and that means the Government isn’t willing to get to the bottom of some of the most serious and entrenched problems in our public mental health system.

We urgently need to ramp this campaign up. We cannot afford to let the Government do the bare minimum and get a good headline, when what we really need is deep systemic change.

What is clear is that the Government realises they can’t get away with ignoring our report and our recommendations. 

But they want to avoid an inquiry, which is essential. Extra funding will help alleviate some of the most urgent pressure on the system, but it won’t fix everything. We need an independent inquiry to get clear on how much money the mental health system needs, where those funds are best spent, and what systemic failures allowed the current crisis to develop.”

It’s hard to say what will happen next. It feels like it’ll be pretty easy for the government to ignore this work, to be honest. As someone who has struggled with mental health challenges, and dealing with the mental health system, for the better part of ten years, I don’t hold a lot of hope for change – even though I know first hand how desperately it is needed.

But I’ve donated towards the campaign, which you can also do, and I’m writing this to try and help raise the profile of the report. I’ve got to believe that every little bit helps.

To leave things as they are doesn’t bear thinking about. I’ve lost friends, I’ve seen from the inside how stretched the system is, I’ve been horrified at the lack of support available, over and over again. We have one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world, especially in youth. It’s gotten worse, year on year, since the Coroner’s Office started keeping records in 2008.

It’s an election year, so something is going to happen. It’s just a case of whether whatever that is will be enough.


Need support?

Mental Health Foundation website – list of helplines

Mental health crisis services list of services