What does good mental health policy look like this election?

Our free four-step guide, and resources
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We all know New Zealand’s mental health system isn’t working. The people of Aotearoa deserve better, and political parties can do better by creating good mental health policy this election. 

To help, we’ve set out a four-step guide to creating good mental health policy for MPs and politicians, which includes  a set of 12 actions for meaningful change that can be enacted within the first year post-election.

Want a booklet copy of this guide? You can download the booklet here, along with our 12 actions for meaningful change statement. 

Four steps to creating good mental health policy

1. See the scope of need

In 2023, Aotearoa’s scope of need is extensive and complex. The mental health system has been deprioritised for decades, and the impacts of COVID-19 and natural disasters have substantially impacted the wellbeing of many.

Parties who publicly acknowledge the scale of mental health need and adopt a plan and investment strategy that shows they understand all the areas where need exists, will win the public’s confidence to effectively address these issues.

You can learn more about the scope of Aotearoa’s mental health need by reading these resources: 

2023 General Election mental health and wellbeing policy guide 

2023 General Election Statement 

People in Aotearoa want to see what parties will do differently – we recommend parties think outside the box when examining how they will address the scope of need.

2. Resource the right solutions

Currently, most of Aotearoa’s mental health budget is spent on services. While more services are needed, waiting until someone needs services is like waiting with an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff – it's more effective and cost-efficient to build cliff fences too.

Good mental health policy this election will commit to investing wisely across a number of different ‘fences’: preventing mental health challenges, promoting positive mental wellbeing and increasing effective, Te Tiriti-grounded supports. Mental health services will also need funding amongst an array of different supports to help New Zealanders be well, and stay well.   

Many people across Aotearoa, including Māori and young people, want mental health and wellbeing supports that don’t just involve medication. We recommend parties think about how their mental health policy could include more holistic options, for example by funding kaupapa Māori services or mental health promotion approaches.

3. Commit to a clear, long-term plan

He Ara Oranga, the report from the 2018 Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, presented a way forward informed by thousands of individuals and communities – but four years on, we’re still waiting on an implementation plan for many of its recommendations.    

This election, it’s critical parties commit to a timeline for change. Their plans should be long-term, have a staged implementation and name the people in charge of delivering work. 

Our mental health system is complex and long-neglected – it can’t be changed overnight. Committing to a phased, long-term plan will help parties keep on track and monitor system change progress. A good plan will also reassure New Zealanders that a party understands the issues at play and is committed to enacting tangible change.

4. Grab the quick wins to drive lasting change

While parties develop their clear, long-term plans, there are concrete actions they can take to make change now. We recommend parties’ pre-election mental health policies commit to a small number of tangible and evidence-based actions – and commit to getting them off the ground in the first year post-election.  

Some evidence-based examples are below. 

Mental Health Foundation

We recommend parties commit to enacting two-three of these actions pre-election, to help win the public’s confidence.

After more detail?

See our resources below. Each are short, handy guides invaluable for developing good mental health policy this election.

Authorised by Shaun Robinson, Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, Eden 3, Ground Floor, 16 Normanby Road, Mt Eden, Auckland 1024.