The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (the MHF) is supportive of a private member’s Bill requiring the Government of the day, by law, to develop a national mental health and wellbeing strategy.
This Bill was pulled from the ballot last Thursday, and asks to amend the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Act to require the Minister of Health to prepare and determine a mental health and wellbeing strategy.
The MHF has advocated for developing and implementing a national mental health, addiction and wellbeing strategy for a number of years. In 2021, when the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill had not yet passed into law, the MHF argued the then Bill should require a national mental health, addiction and wellbeing strategy to be developed and adopted by all the new health entities.
Mandating the development and implementation of this strategy in law, the MHF argued, would ensure that:
- A mental wellbeing strategy had equal standing with other health strategies.
- The Government would be held accountable for the transformation of Aotearoa’s mental health system, a transformation initiated by the 2018 Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.
- There was an enduring and long-term focus across the full spectrum of mental wellbeing solutions.
On the other hand, not developing this strategy would put the nation’s mental health, wellbeing and addiction priorities at risk, the MHF argued. Without a mandated strategy, decision-makers could simply revert back to using outdated – but deep-rooted – deficit models around mental health and addiction and focus on solely expanding services, an approach that can’t – and hasn’t - solved Aotearoa’s wellbeing crisis.
“The mental health system does need more services – the ambulances at the bottom of the cliff – but we also need fences at the top of the cliff to support people before they need it. In practice, this looks like effective, Te Tiriti-based supports, preventing mental health challenges and promoting positive wellbeing,” the MHF’s chief executive, Shaun Robinson, says.
“Almost half of us will experience mental distress or illness in our lifetimes. We simply cannot help one person at a time through services – we need these population mental health and wellbeing approaches to help all New Zealanders to be well, and stay well. A mandated mental health and wellbeing strategy would help ensure population approaches like these happen.”
The Mental Health Foundation sees promise in the private member’s Bill drawn last Thursday.
“We hope that the broad wellbeing focus of the Bill cements Aotearoa’s commitment to wellbeing promotion and mental distress prevention, and protects Aotearoa from reverting back to outdated approaches that haven’t worked in the past.”
The timing of the Bill being drawn just after the rising of the House, Mr Robinson says, is also a great way of keeping mental health on the Parliamentary agenda.
“We’re pleased there will be an opportunity for Parliament to re-consider developing a national mental health and wellbeing strategy when it reconvenes after the election.
“Our mental health is our wealth – te taonga te hauora.”
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Public Relations and Media Engagement Team Lead
Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand
Ph: 021 998 949