The Government is finally listening to us - mental health campaigners

  • 01/03/2018

The Mental Health Foundation chief executive has new hope the Government will finally set a suicide reduction rate.

On Wednesday the Mental Health Commission, who advises the Government, released a report recommending a "zero tolerance of suicides in services" policy and a 10 percent overall reduction target.

Shaun Robinson told The AM Show on Thursday it was "pretty clear" that wasn't going to happen under the former Government.

"I think they were afraid they would be held accountable, that if they say we're going to reduce this by 10 percent and then they don't that people will beat them up.

"And I think that was a foolish response because really reducing the number of deaths by suicide, improving our mental health and wellbeing is something that requires total societal response.

"We can end deaths by suicide. There are needless deaths occurring."

Mr Robinson says he approached former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman four times about setting a target, who "said he would consider the evidence and that there were arguments on both sides".

Last year Mr Coleman told NZME there are questions on "how realistic or useful an arbitrary numerical or percentage target in relation to suicide would be".

"I am open minded about further discussion on a target... Any target is meaningless without the right policies."

But mental health campaigner Mike King told the show it's "pretty interesting that we haven't heard from the Mental Health Commissioner for the past three years" but with a change of Government "the thinking has changed completely".

"I don't know what his motivation is but what is clear is that his thinking has changed and that's got to be a good thing.

"We've been banging on about zero suicides since 2012 and it's been largely ignored. And suddenly for them to be taking it up... it's great that these high-paid bureaucrats are finally getting on board with what the public are thinking."

Mr King praised the zero-tolerance policy of deaths recommended within mental health services. One hundred and eighty New Zealanders took their lives under the watch of mental health services last year.

"This is where the target zero... is coming from, targeting the adoption of the goal of zero tolerance of suicide in services.

"It takes a lot of guts to come forward and ask for help and when you finally get there, this is born out of frustration with the system once you get there.

"For a lot of people the service isn't there and they go, what's the point?"

Mr Robinson pointed out it's also important to note the "thousands of really good people out there doing great work every day".

If you wish to talk to someone about mental illness or domestic violence, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, the Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757 or the National Telehealth Service on 1737.