Mike King quits Government suicide panel

Mental health advocate Mike King has quit a government suicide prevention panel, saying the recently released draft plan is "deeply flawed."

The plan ignores key recommendations made by the panel and continues to fund "failed experiments", Mr King said in a letter sent to the Ministry of Heath on Monday morning.

Mr King has been on the panel since 2015, working to help shape a strategy to prevent suicide over the next 10 years. In his letter, he states that his resignation is effective immediately. 

The plan is "nonsense" and it's "almost as if it was designed with the election coming up", Mr King told Newshub.

He said it promises nothing, and shows the government is not listening to the people.

Mr King said Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman needs to "stop listening to everybody else and do what politicians are supposed to do - get out in the community, come with me into the communities, face to face with the people who are struggling every day with the system."

In his letter, Mr King says the plan will collapse.

"The plan has buried all new ideas in such impenetrable language they are beyond recognition and unlikely to ever see the light of day. It is a strategy that is so broad in its effort to please everyone it will eventually collapse under the weight of public expectation. This will please no one except you and the politicians you serve."

"Without an adequately funded sector, and a stocktake of the structure and provison of services, we are just fiddling around the edges.

"It would be funny if people weren't dying," Mr King wrote.

In the letter, Mr King took issue with the draft plan's ditching of a suicide prevention target. The panel said there was a need to reduce suicide by 20 percent over 10 years. The target was removed from the draft.

"Have we returned to the defeatist attitude that some degree of suicide is acceptable, inevitable or both?"

He said the plan was "so broad and vanilla [the statements] can mean everything and nothing at exactly the same time."

Mr King has been a vocal critic of New Zealand's mental health system. Last month, he said the system is underfunded, under-resourced and professionals were over-medicating patients as a stopgap between appointments.

He said the Government had a poor grasp on mental health funding and said it needed to review what is working before committing to more spending.

Ministry Of Health director of mental health Dr John Crawshaw has praised Mr King's work.

"Mike emailed me this morning outlining his decision to resign from the group," he said in a statement to Newshub.

"In my response to Mike, I'll be thanking him for his work, and also recognising the special connection he has with New Zealanders. His energy and drive will no doubt be ongoing as we all continue the work to reduce suicide."

He says the draft strategy was released on April 12 and since then, consultations have been taking place as well as ministry-led public meetings around the country.

"The draft strategy Mike refers to is setting out a vision of how we can work together to prevent suicide; it's the responsibility of all of us. No one person or organisation can prevent suicide; we all need to be involved from government agencies, to employers, neighbours and families."

Dr Crawshaw says Mr King has been a "significant voice" on the subject of suicide.

"I hope that will continue."

Newshub has contacted Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman for comment.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0508 828 865.