Mental health report calls for Royal Commission of Inquiry

A highly critical new report out on Wednesday reveals significant issues for those using, or working in, our mental health system.

Ninety-three percent of them had a bad experience.

The People's Review - as the report's called - says more funding is urgently needed for support services - and it wants a Royal Commission of Inquiry into how the system works.

The report reveals mental health services under strain, with long wait times and difficulty getting access.

Lou Hutchison first sought help from mental health services 10 years ago.

"I'd reached a crisis point in my life, my life seemed to be falling apart and I was actually suicidal," she says.

She was given medication for anxiety but declined for counselling. When she moved from Hawke's Bay to Wellington last year - she couldn't get any help at all.

"In terms of my immediate needs of just needing support, there was none in Wellington," she says.

Ms Hutchison's  story is one of 500 making up the People's Mental Health Review and it's a common theme.

More than a third reported problems accessing mental health services.

Comedian Mike King has been a driving force behind the review.

"People are actually coming forward to ask for the help and in a lot of cases having the door firmly slammed in the face," he says.

The report shows a further quarter of the stories were about strain on workers, and an overstretched and under-resourced mental health system.

But the Government's increased funding from $1.1 billion in 2008 to $1.4 billion last year.

While the number of registered nurses working in mental health and addictions services is up 17 percent, on five years ago.

"We have been increasing access and responsiveness of the services in terms of decreased wait times," says Dr John Crawshaw, Director of Mental Health.

"There's an awful lot of innovation a lot of improvement occurring."

The author of the report, Marianne Elliott, says it needs more than just money.

"There are other problems that we are describing as more entrenched problems that won't easily be fixed just by injecting more resources into mental health services," she says.

She's calling for an urgent Royal Commission of Inquiry as well as an education programme to improve understanding.