I don't think it's overstating things to says Aotearoa has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not only shape the future of the mental health and addictions sector, but to transform our approach to mental wellbeing too.
I know this because, almost a generation ago, I started my career as a mental health nurse. I've seen what works, what doesn't, and I've recognised along the way that a key piece of the puzzle has been missing.
That missing piece has been the recognition that mental wellbeing isn't just the mental health and addiction's sector responsibility, it isn't just an all-of-government issue, it's an issue for everyone in New Zealand. From friends to whanau, housing to employment, multiple factors and inputs significantly impact every individual's wellbeing.
Last week, Health Minister Andrew Little launched Kia Manawanui Aotearoa - Long-term pathway to mental wellbeing. It is a strategy that contains three key actions that give me genuine hope for the future of our country's wellbeing.
The first is an acknowledgement it's an issue for everyone, that the wellbeing challenges we face as a nation are bigger than any individual, any NGO, any ministry or any government.
The second key action on this will not only will see the formation of an all-of-government approach that ties together everyone for the common purpose of improving the determinates of mental wellbeing, but one also elevates the contribution of whānau and a community-led approach.
The third key action is the formation of the Assurance Group to hold those with responsibilities, including myself, accountable.
It gives me great pride that we have this long-term pathway for everyone and I'm proud to play my role. As Kia Manawanui states, this pathway is for our workforce, for community leaders, for employers, educators and future governments.
Everyone has a role to play in creating this change – whether it is in our homes or our communities, including schools, marae, workplaces and places of recreation.
Ensuring good mental wellbeing in Aotearoa for all requires all of us to act collectively to make improvements. It also requires monitoring to see we as a system are making progress. I see the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission as playing a pivotal role in this.
Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield recently remarked this starts with a shift in conversation and awareness about mental wellbeing. The Kiwi spirit of "she'll be right" has evolved, and we now recognise "it's okay to not be okay".
Over the coming months, there are going to be significant opportunities for everyone in New Zealand to contribute to the future of mental wellbeing and addiction services. We have started engagement on the gambling harm reduction, but there's also a chance to contribute to the framework of mental health systems and services and the repeal and replacement of the Mental Health Act.
This is once-in-a-generation stuff.
We know right now the mental health and wellbeing system isn't where it needs to be. We know about many of the pressures, the shortages, the potholes and the inequities. It's what keeps many of us awake at night and fills our days as we look to improve the access and choice of services and wellbeing outcomes for every New Zealander.
It will take time, and it will take effort. But I have confidence that together we can create a more equitable, flexible and high-quality mental health and wellbeing sector.
Good things are happening now and, importantly, a major step forward has been taken with the release of Kia Manawanui.
• Phil Grady is deputy director-general of mental health and addiction.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234 (available 24/7)
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (12pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7)
• Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.