The mental health system is looking "increasingly desperate," the Labour Party says, after a Cobden man suffering depression went missing for the second time in less than two months.
Laurence Stewart-Farish, 62, was reported missing yesterday and was found this morning, 80km away near Charleston by a police patrol.
He had been missing since Sunday night, although the alarm was raised only yesterday.
He previously sparked a search and rescue on September 23, when he again walked up the Coast Road to Charleston.
Separately, RNZ reported the police annual report shows police officers are dealing with three times as many people suffering from mental distress, and eight times as many people who are suicidal, as they were in the late 1990s.
Labour health spokeswoman Annette King, a former minister of health, today released figures her office received from the West Coast District Health Board.
They show the number of mental health beds on the Coast has remained at nine.
However, the number admitted to those beds each month has fallen, from 14 in June 2011 to eight in June 2015.
The number of people presenting to the mental health department at Grey Base Hospital has increased, from just three in June 2011, to 17 in June 2015, while in the same period the number of call-outs for adult mental health services has gone from 90 to 292.
The DHB said the increases reflected better reporting.
Mrs King said non-government organisations providing mental health services had received no, or minimal increases, in funding.
More people were ending up at the hospital emergency department, she said.
"Combined with call-outs with police, we are getting a picture that is looking increasingly desperate."
Mental health had been removed as a government priority, and now the focus was on things such as emergency department wait times.
"Community mental health is under huge pressure," she said.
West Coast police area Inspector John Canning would not be drawn on how much West Coast police time was spent dealing with mental health cases, such as Mr Farish.
"From a procedural perspective, we've got to find the guy before we worry about his mental condition," Mr Canning said.
More broadly, the West Coast had "one of the busiest" police search and rescue squadrons in New Zealand, dealing with a wide variety of missing person searches for people missing for a variety of reasons.
After he last went missing, Mr Farish and his wife Shirley called for more community-led support for those suffering from depression, and their families.
They said they were keen to see more support from the time of discharge from the mental health facility.
West Coast DHB clinical director of mental health services Dr Cameron Lacey said because of the need to protect patient privacy, the board was not able to comment about individuals and whether or not they were receiving care.
"There are a number of organisations to turn to if people are feeling distressed. People can talk to their general practice teams, to the community mental health services team at the Grey Base Hospital or through Buller Health in Westport, plus there are numerous community organisations and non-governmental organisations who provide a listening ear and support."