Māori mental health concerns aired before govt inquiry panel

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • Auckland

Māori mental health needs urgent attention according to Māori mental health carers and iwi leaders.

Today experts, workers and iwi representatives are convening for a two day conference to discuss issues in the sector they plan to put before the government's mental health inquiry panel.

Māori mental health is only getting worse according to iwi leaders.

Te Rarawa spokesperson Haami Piripi says, "It's an epidemic, from suicide rates amongst our youth to mental health issues in adults and those consuming drugs on top of that."

Tainui leader Rahui Papa says, "We have yet to find a solution to resolve these issues.  That's what iwi and Māori healthcare providers are saying to the government."

Iwi leaders are meeting with the national centre for Māori health, Te Rau Matatini in Auckland.

Te Rau Matatini CEO Maria Baker says, "It's an opportunity for iwi to express to the government mental health inquiry panel that they have infrastructure and capacity and capability to care for our own.

“We need the mental health contracts and the funding that's available inside mainstream services to be unbundled and given over to iwi."

According to the Ministry of Health’s statistics, Māori adults were 1.5 times as likely as non-Māori adults to report a higher probability of having an anxiety or depressive disorder.

Baker says "There are high numbers of Māori that are entering into mental health services.  However the types of treatment that are available are very western medical model-dominated and so we want to see a shift away from that."

Baker says Māori mental health is under-resourced but hopes the feedback and findings in the inquiry will demonstrate the voices of Māori.

"They use high doses of psychiatric medication.  We don't have the ability to get work if we've got a mental health diagnosis most of the time.

“We're stigmatised and discriminated against and whānau don't have the access to resources that they need, so yeah there's a big expectation on this inquiry."

Groups have until October to submit their views to the mental health inquiry panel.