What needs to change?

The people who submitted stories to this review made a wide range of recommendations for change, some of the recurring themes in those recommendations include:

  • Urgently increase funding to mental health services.
  • Conduct a national review of mental health services.
  • Provide a wider range of treatment options including a full range of talking therapies, and peer support - both of which people had found to be useful and therapeutic.
  • Treat people using mental health services with respect, acknowledging their experience and expertise in their own mental health, and their capacity to make good choices about their treatment.
  • Involve families more in the care and support of people experiencing mental distress, and help families to give the kind of support that is needed.

Some of the solutions to the problems highlighted in the stories we received lie outside of the mental health system, and require proactive changes to social policy in other sectors. These would include greater protection for workers, to remove the stress of insecure and low wage work, and reduce workplace bullying. Another significant source of mental distress for people was the struggle to find safe and affordable housing. This challenge was often exacerbated by discrimination and stigmatisation against people with experience of mental illness, but in some cases a lack of secure housing was one of the stressors that led to mental distress in the first place.

The stories in this review also reinforce the devastating impact that domestic and family violence, and sexual violence, have on mental health and well-being in our country. While efforts to reduce the prevalence of family and sexual violence in New Zealand reach well beyond the mental health sector, this review did also reveal some changes that need to be made to how our mental health services to meet the needs of people who have experienced trauma of this kind. This includes the need to allow time for people to build trust with mental health professionals, understandably more of a challenge for people whose safety has been violated by people who they should have been able to trust.

BASED ON THE REVIEW, HERE ARE our Recommendations:

  • An urgent funding increase for mental health services for acute and community based mental health services nationally. This requires a focus on increasing community based service access and treatment choices for people using mental health services to provide interventions early. It is also essential to support the people who work in mental health services, by easing workload pressures and enabling them to offer the services and support people want and need.

  • Fully independent oversight of the mental health system in line with minimum obligations set out in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This could be in the form of restoring the Mental Health Commission, the creation of an independent Disability Commission, or the inclusion of dedicated Mental Health Commissioners under the current Human Rights Commission. These would include clearly designated roles for those with lived experience.

  • An urgent independent inquiry into the structure and provision of mental health services in New Zealand. The terms of this inquiry should be informed by New Zealand’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the need to provide for healthy families and healthy communities, and should allow for the increasing numbers of people seeking support from mental health services. We also recommend that a Royal Commission of Inquiry be carried out into the long-term and entrenched problems highlighted by this review. 

  • A national education programme to support all New Zealanders to understand what mental health is, and what mental health services provide, that operates in the education system and wider society. This will ensure that the work of change is understood by all New Zealanders so people with lived experience are included by our society rather than having to endure prejudice and discrimination.

“I don’t want sympathy. I want money and for this to get sorted so that I can get the medication and ongoing psychiatric care I need to live my life. I don’t want sympathy, I want the system to change so that people with mental health issues — all people, children, LGBTQ peoples, Māori, Pasifika, the elderly, people with no money, people on working holiday visas, famous people, immigrants, students, women, men, people who are a Venn Diagram of two or more of these, have NO barriers to getting the health they need. I don’t want anyone to have to live like I’m living.”
— From an anonymous submission