Why a People’s Mental Health Review?

ActionStation’s first campaign on mental health was started in response to the announcement in February 2016 that $140 million was being cut from funding for mental health services across the country. Of most urgent concern to ActionStation members were cuts to funding for mental health services in Canterbury, where many people are still experiencing mental distress in the wake of years of earthquakes.

In response to these cuts 15,000 ActionStation members signed a petition calling for the restoration of funding to CDHB for mental health services and hundreds of people from all over the country emailed the Minister of Health. ActionStation members also chipped in to fund a video about a young man in Christchurch who had experienced significant mental distress during and in the years following the earthquakes. Within weeks of the campaign launching, the Government announced a backdown on these cuts, and an extra $20 million in funding for new mental health services in Canterbury over three years.

The success of this campaign, confirmed by mental health service providers in Canterbury who told us they believed funding wouldn’t have been restored without the efforts of ActionStation members, inspired us to do more. And it was clear that funding problems for mental health services were not limited to Canterbury. So when Kyle MacDonald and Mike King came to ActionStation with the idea of a ‘People’s Mental Health Review’ we knew we were ready to make it happen.

It was time to stop asking for a review, and start doing it ourselves.  

This review was an extremely ambitious project for a small, crowdfunded campaigning community. It has involved many hours of work for our team of staff and volunteers. Our co-director Laura O’Connell Rapira worked with Kyle and Mike to design the review process and get the word out around the country, resulting in more than 500 submissions all of which were carefully collated by research intern Alex Davis. Every one of those submission was then read, more than once, analysed and coded by our co-director Marianne Elliott, and volunteer researcher Ann Cloet, both of whom also conducted a number of in-depth interviews with people who were happy to provide more context to the stories they had submitted. Additional research support was provided by ActionStation volunteer Lou Hutchison. We also contracted PhD candidate Jonathan Beazer to carry out an independent audit of our data analysis. This report was written by Marianne, with editorial input from Ann Cloet and Kyle MacDonald.  All of which is only possible because members of the ActionStation community chip in to fund this work.

Our hope is that the courage of the 500 people who submitted their stories to this process will be rewarded by seeing their concerns taken seriously, along with their hopes and recommendations for a better future for mental health services in New Zealand.