The Rock's Bryce Casey pleads with Jacinda Ardern for more mental health funding

Radio host Bryce Casey begged Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to give more money to mental health and counselling services during an interview on The Rock on Wednesday morning. 

The Rock Morning Rumble presenter Casey, who has spearheaded several fundraising efforts by the station over the last three years, said he didn't plan to ask Ardern about the subject, but couldn't help himself. 

"Prime Minister, I know you're a busy person, right, you have a lot of questions about a lot of things. I didn't tell these guys I was going to ask this, but I'm just thinking of it and I wanted to say it while we're here," he said. 

"I know it doesn't work like this, right, because there are so many processes. But can I just ask, from someone who gets sent a lot of messages on Instagram, I don't know what it takes to happen, but can we please just give more money somehow to have more funding to have more people get the counseling that they require?" 

Casey mentioned Gumboot Friday, Mike King's mental health initiative which was rejected for funding by the Ministry of Health last month, saying he understood there were application processes but "it should be a lot easier". 

"I get so many heavy messages all of the time. I know there are processes, and there's funding, and there's 'apply for this and apply for that,'" he told the Prime Minister. 

"But to be honest, a lot of it just sounds like a lot of crap - and not from you. I'm not saying you're saying crap. I'm saying crap in general,"

"I just want it to be a lot easier. Kids are killing themselves. Adults are killing themselves. Adults are trying… I just don't want it anymore, or at least as possible.

"Can we just make a change, please?" 

Ardern said she received the same type of messages, and had the same "sense of urgency" about the topic of mental health. 

"If it were just a matter of money, then it would be an issue that anyone would have solved yesterday. But it's not. 

"The last time I sat down with our team I said 'what can we do to deal with the wait times people are experiencing, what can we do to improve people's access to crisis care?' 

"One of the problems we have is we don't have enough people working in mental health, and that is one of our many problems. And so we are doing what we can. 

"And this is why every time I talk to you, you hear me talk about what we're trying to do to build a new service that’s earlier so that we get people before we reach crisis." 

Ardern pointed out the length of time needed to train mental health professionals was also a factor - with it taking years to become a qualified psychologist. 

"So it's: 'What can we do in the meantime? What can we do to keep growing and expanding and preventing people [from] hitting crisis?'" she continued. "So please know - I hear you, and we are doing what we can. But if there were simple fixes, I tell you, I would have found them by now because I keep looking. 

"But we will keep working on it." 

Casey said he appreciated Ardern's answer but again mentioned King: "All I know is that there's, you know, old mate, our mate [King] is saying they've got people ready to go, that want to help people who try and take the burden off," Casey said. 

"If we can make that happen, let’s make it happen. I know you're pushed for time and stuff." 

"We're still working with Mike and his team," Ardern replied. 

Last month, King returned his New Zealand Order of Merit medal over the state of mental health support in Aotearoa. He's repeatedly criticised Ardern and the Ministry of Health over a lack of investment in services in this area.