Kiwis urged to share their experiences of mental health care to force inquiry

By Martin Johnston

Kyle MacDonald (left) and Mike King want a national inquiry into mental health services. Photo / Supplied.
Kyle MacDonald (left) and Mike King want a national inquiry into mental health services. Photo / Supplied.

Campaigners are trying to force the Government's hand on holding an inquiry into the "crisis" in mental health services, by providing a new platform for people to publicise their experiences of the system.

Comedian Mike King and psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald have joined forces to create the People's Mental Health Review Campaign.

MacDonald said there are signs the mental health system is in crisis, such as the problems that led to reviews in Waikato and Northland, and he has backed the call of the Green Party and others for the Government to establish a national inquiry.

The Government has resisted these calls.

Greens health spokesman Kevin Hague said a national inquiry was needed after the Health Ministry released its "damning review" of Waikato District Health Board's psychiatric care in April. That followed a series of incidents, including the death of Nicky Stevens, who was found dead in the Waikato River in March, after being released from the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre at Waikato Hospital.

In Kaitaia, six suspected suicides, of people aged 17 to 25, have been reported in the past four months.

Kaitaia teenager Nina Griffiths, who organised a community discussion in July with King as guest speaker after she lost two friends to suspected suicide, has said funding for suicide prevention programmes is an issue.

MacDonald said: "For the last six months, I have been talking to people, had phone calls from professionals and colleagues expressing concern at what's going on in their local areas, which is why it seems to feel out of step with what we are hearing from the ministry and the Government."

"I hear so many stories of people struggling to access services, not being able to see a therapist or a psychiatrist, from consumers and clinicians, that I thought it was important to bring those voices to the public."

He and King, with not-for-profit group Action Station, are creating a website to publish the stories of anyone involved with mental health care - patients, their families, and health-care practitioners - on a purpose-built website, publicmentalhealthreview.nz.

The first stories will go live on October 10, the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.

"The [people's] review is founded on the belief that those calling for change don't need more statistics," MacDonald said. "Instead, stories will help personalise the problems within the system, galvanise popular support and force the Government to take notice and hopefully provoke a royal commission of inquiry or ministerial inquiry ... "

King, who has spoken publicly of his troubles with depression and drugs, said, "The only voice missing from the debate on mental health services is the voice of those who use the service."

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has highlighted the increased funding provided for mental health and addiction services.

"Youth access to mental health and addiction services has improved, and adult access rates have remained steady despite increasing demand," he told MPs on Parliament's health committee.

"Budget 2016 includes $12 million of funding over four years to increase support for people to access mental health services at an earlier stage."

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906 (Palmerston North and Levin)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- NZ Herald

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