Mental health expert slams lack of funding for sector
A mental health professional is reinforcing Labour's criticism of the lack of funding for the mental health system.
Frontline services Youthline and Lifeline have both reported an increase of calls about depression over the past year.
Psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald says mental health services have been showing signs of strain for a long time.
"People who are extremely suicidal can't be hospitalised, and respite services are under pressure," he says. "Community services are under pressure, and it's actually highly risky because we're dealing with people who are actually acutely at risk, whether that's mental health issues or whether that's suicide."
Mr MacDonald believes we are only just seeing the tip of the iceberg of the issue.
He says acute facilities around the country have lost beds.
"We've got a number of nurses working double shifts, so 16 hours, and you can imagine the stress and strain that it is working 16 hours in an acute psychiatric ward."
He says there are a number of factors contributing to the problem.
"Ring-fencing of mental health funding, which provided a guaranteed and allocated amount of money for mental health services specifically, has had to be abandoned because there's not enough money to go around.
"There are problems in other areas of health, but there are some very clear areas in mental health."
Mr MacDonald says staffing levels are another issue facing the sector, which needs to be addressed.