This year's mental health budget has been slammed as "distressing" and compared to "giving a starving dog a rubber bone".

As part of Budget 2017, an extra $224 million will be invested into mental health services over four years. That is part of the $879m health funding increase announced yesterday.

YesWeCare.nz campaign coordinator Simon Oosterman said mental health had been underfunded by more than $50m in this year's budget - health funding overall fell $300m short of what was needed.

Auckland mental health social worker Andy Colwell said the gap between demand and funding was getting bigger.

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"As a mental health worker it is frustrating seeing struggling families in life threatening situations being told they can't be seen due to underfunding," he says. "This budget means the situation is going to get worse and that is incredibly distressing."

PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay said there was some extra mental health funding, but it was very light on detail and nowhere near what was needed.

"In mental health, it's like giving a starving dog a rubber bone," he said. "People will continue to wait for treatment, and Minister Coleman will continue to pretend there's no crisis."

Comedian and mental health advocate Mike King said the funding was disappointing.

Comedian and mental health advocate Mike King says the mental health funding in this year's budget it
Comedian and mental health advocate Mike King says the mental health funding in this year's budget it "disappointing". Photo/File

"It looks like we've allocated $300m to mental health when it's about $1.25m per DHB [per year]. The rest is reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic...You don't have to be a rocket scientists to work out $1.25m doesn't go far."

It was the DHBs that needed the money and were being forced to turn people away, he said.

People's Mental Health Review spokesperson and psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald said the budget showed mental health was not a priority for the Government.

"The spending that has been allocated, via the Social Investment budget, is a small percentage of what is required. Since 2008, funding increases for mental health represented a 28 per cent increase in spending, despite a massive 60 per cent increase in demand," he said.

"What was announced today comes nowhere near addressing the ongoing shortfall in funding for our core public mental health system."

However, Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said the $224m boost for mental health services announced in the budget would "make a meaningful difference".

"I said this morning that hundreds of millions of dollars were needed. On the face of it, that's what the Government's putting up," he said.

"It's absolutely critical that this money doesn't get used up doing the same thing in the same way.

"We need a very strong emphasis on early intervention and recovery. When people are going through a difficult time, not leaving it to the point where it becomes a crisis."
It needed to be guided by clear leadership and a strategy, he said.

"It needs to be led by doing things differently and it needs to be a sustained investment into the future. I really hope that through this investment we see a reduction in the number of deaths by suicide - it's one very strong and real indicator."

Forced to fight for help

Maggie de Grauw has had to fight for treatment for anxiety and depression. Photo/File
Maggie de Grauw has had to fight for treatment for anxiety and depression. Photo/File

on and anxiety since her early 20s.

Medication helped keep it at bay for many years but eight months ago it became unbearable again.

She received a mental health assessment over the phone and after a 20 minute conversation, the conclusion was she ought to be seen by a specialist.

After that she heard nothing.

She spent months trying to get months trying to get an appointment with a psychiatrist through the public health service before her GP suggested she may be best to go private.

She was unable to find a private psychiatrist in Tauranga so has had to travel to Auckland and back for a number of appointments.

But the pressure of making the trip and the Auckland traffic only increased her anxiety.

"It's just too hard when you are already struggling with these sorts of anxiety issues."

She believes the public health system deemed her case not severe enough for treatment but she says it affects every aspect of her life.

"You constantly have to chase it up yourself. It just numbs you, it just paralyses you," she said.

She said there needed to be more funding for and focus on prevention.

"From what I've heard the budget is going to help at the bottom of the cliff once people have already jumped."