Background and context to this review

In his 2015 annual report, the Director of Mental Health Services Dr John Crawshaw reported that “a record number of people accessed specialist mental health and addiction services” and that, as a result, “services are experiencing increasing pressure.”

He also reported that mental health outcomes continue to be inequitable in New Zealand, listing Māori, Pacific peoples, people with disabilities and refugees as groups that disproportionately experience mental health issues. Māori are also over-represented under the Mental Health Act. He also acknowledged that New Zealanders with moderate mental health needs, who do not meet the threshold for specialist care, are not having their needs met.

New Zealand mental health services by the numbers

In 2015, specialist mental health or addiction services engaged with 162,223 people (3.5 percent of the New Zealand population), an increase from 143,060 people in 2011.

In 2013 a total of 513 people died by suicide in New Zealand. Provisional figures for 2015-16 show 579 people died from suicide.  

In 2015, 91 percent of specialist service users accessed only community mental health services, less than 1 percent accessed only inpatient services and the remaining 9 percent accessed a mixture of inpatient and community services.

Previous Reviews of Mental Health in New Zealand

In 1998 the Mental Health Commission published Blueprint for Mental Health Services in New Zealand: How Things Need To Be. The Blueprint emphasised:

  • The need for a recovery approach in the delivery of services.

  • The importance of meeting the needs of Maori and Pacific people.

  • The needs of families of people with mental illness.

  • The need for people to be able to move easily from one service to another.

  • The importance of respect for the rights and recognition of equality.

In 2012, in it’s final report, the Mental Health Commission published an update on the Blueprint in which found that “support for people with complex and enduring mental health and addiction problems and their family and whānau has come a long way.” However, “we need to greatly expand access to services … and will know we are being successful” if, amongst other things:

  • No one who seeks help waits for help.

  • Support for infants and mothers, children and youth has increased significantly.

  • Support for populations who experience inequality of outcomes has improved.

As you’ll see in our report and on this website, the stories submitted to the People's Mental Health Review help to show how far we still have to go on this journey.