Who should I vote for? Mental health policies at a glance

Half of all New Zealanders will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. One in five have a mental health problem in any given year.

In 2016-2017, 606 people died of suspected suicide. It's the third year in a row that New Zealand's suicide rate has increased.

The People's Mental Health Review - for which it's worth noting the 500 participants were self-selecting - found services are stretched and staff are overworked.

The Review said difficulty finding affordable and secure housing is a factor in causing mental distress, with the stigma against people with mental illness exacerbating the problem.

The Mental Health Foundation calls for a unified suicide prevention strategy, and a target for reducing deaths. It wants better investment in mental health services, universal access to early mental health care and an inquiry into what's working.

Mental health advocates say social factors such as "poverty, inequality, racism and homophobia" contribute to New Zealand's suicide rate. You can find our policy wraps on other issues here.

National acknowledges many people who need mental health care aren't accessing services. It will continue with its social investment approach in mental health, which seeks to "better utilise data and information" to help decision-making around funding of programmes.

In the 2017 Budget, National allocated an extra $224 million over four years to mental health - with $100m of that coming from DHB budgets. The $100m fund will be used on 17 initiatives, with a focus on prevention, early intervention, especially for young people. E-therapy and distance options will be expanded, as will support for people with mild to moderate disorders.

Labour would increase resourcing for frontline health workers, put nurses in all high schools and conduct a review of the mental health system in their first 100 days. It would put mental health workers in schools affected by Canterbury earthquakes and target suicide prevention funding into mainstream and rainbow community support organisations.

Labour would put $193m over three years into mental health, on top of the Government's increase announced in the budget. It would conduct a two-year pilot programme placing mental health teams at eight sites - such as GPs - across the country. It would offer free crisis help for people.

The Māori Party would increase kaupapa Māori services in mental health, including drug and alcohol treatment and mental health residential centres. It would appoint mental health youth workers in all high schools and would lower the threshold for access to support.

It would expand Oranga Tamariki's youth suicide prevention work. The party claims the allocation of $8 million over four years for youth suicide in the 2017 Budget was thanks to its lobbying.

Who should I vote for? Mental health policies at a glance
Photo credit: Newshub

The Opportunities Party would triple Labour's spending on mental health. Geoff Simmons told Newshub we need to "urgently boost funding to mental health services to reduce wait times" and wants a $450m per year increase in funding for mental health. It would fund that huge increase through the legalisation and taxation of cannabis and by increasing tax on alcohol.

The funding would go toward drug and alcohol treatment and community-based prevention. TOP says school programmes for at-risk teens would be included. In Wellington, TOP said that would be Evolve.

NZ First says an inquiry into mental health is urgently needed. It would increase funding "to address the continuing appalling state of mental health". It would diversify options available for mental health treatment, "working towards a community view instead of a medical view of services". It would increase beds in residential services for those with severe illness, disability and drug addiction problems.

NZ First aims to improve the coordination and integration of health services, including mental health.

The Green Party supports an urgent mental health inquiry, wants the Government to set a suicide prevention target and would reinstate the Mental Health Commission.

It wants client-assessed outcome measurement tools for services and fund initiatives with high recovery rates and minimal drug use. It wants training in mental health to be "grounded in holistic, humanistic perspectives". The Green Party's full mental health policy is yet to be released.

ACT would establish a trial to to eliminate waiting lists for mental health services within 24 months. A $30 million fund would be divided amongst DHBs, who could use the fund to fully pay for patients to use NGO services. ACT believes that would mean bypassing the public wait list.

ACT says public awareness about available services is needed to reduce the suicide rate. It would place mental health professionals in all secondary schools.

Extra funding for mental health services:

  • National - $56 million per year
  • Labour- $120m per year
  • Greens - supports Labour's health spending
  • TOP - $450m per year
  • NZ First - Not specified; wants "adequate" funding for mental health needs
  • ACT - Not specified; would not decrease funding
  • Māori Party - Not specified; would increase funding