Topic: Health

Mental Health Act outdated - Inquiry

The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand has welcomed the Mental Health Inquiry's report to the Minister of Health.

They are now calling for the government to make the changes immediately in order to transform mental health in Aotearoa. 

The Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction is recommending the government set up a mental health and well-being commission, take strong action on alcohol and other drugs and set a target to reduce suicide rates.

The recommendations include taking strong action on drugs by enacting a stricter regulatory approach to the sale and supply of alcohol and replacing criminal sanctions for the possession for personal use of controlled drugs with civil responses.

MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says, “The inquiry calls for a number of radical changes and if they are all put into practice and the voices of the thousands of New Zealanders who participated are honoured we have a real opportunity to create lasting transformational change.

“We are particularly keen to see work completed urgently on the national suicide prevention strategy as New Zealand has been without one since 2016,” Robinson says, “The government have been waiting for the inquiry, and the inquiry has instructed them to stop delaying and get going.  There is no further justification for delay, too much time and too many lives have been lost.”

The panel, led by the former health watchdog Ron Paterson, spent roughly 10 months consulting people around the country, holding more than 400 meetings and considering about 5,000 submissions.

“The inquiry notes that many of their recommendations have been made in the past.  Some of these ideas have been written into past strategies and policies, but not implemented and this has been a source of frustration for many.  It’s time to stop passing the buck and make a real commitment to improving the mental health and well-being of New Zealanders,” Robinson says.

The report says the Mental Health Act is out of date and inconsistent with New Zealand's international treaty obligations, saying it should be repealed and replaced with law that reflects a human rights approach and minimises compulsory or coercive treatment.

It also suggests the establishment of a mental health commission to act as a watchdog and provide leadership and oversight of mental health and well-being in New Zealand.

It says there has been a general lack of confidence in leadership of the mental health and addiction sector over many years, since the disestablishment of the original Mental Health Commission, and new commission is needed to provide system leadership and act as the institutional mechanism to hold decision makers and successive governments to account.

The foundation believes that delays in implementing past recommendations have had a significant human cost and has urged the government to start acting today.

“We’ve had more than 10 years of neglect and erosion of mental health services and responses,” Mr Robinson says. “There is no more time to waste; it’s time for action.