Kiwis, National Party back Mike King in protest over Government's spend on mental health

Mental health advocate Mike King has returned his New Zealand Order of Merit (NZOM) medal over the state of mental health support - and those marching with him say nothing's changed.

The criticism comes as officials are accused of not spending money intended to improve mental health.

King walked with his medal for the last time on Wednesday, returning it to Parliament in an effort to "drive significant change". That's a change to a mental health system King says is broken, and one he claims officials are failing to fix. 

So he's handing an honour for his services to mental health back. 

"I want them to admit that the system is broken and then I want them to start consulting with people who know what the system is actually like," he says.

The ones walking with him want to fight for change too. Anna Cresswell still experiences first-hand how painful a lack of support can be.

"When I was 16, my best friend killed herself - nothing's changed."

Hailey Smith is 20 and estimates she's attempted to take her life 20 times. She says an under-resourced system failed her.

"When I was a 16-year-old, the top psychiatrist sat me and my mother down and told us to start planning my funeral." 

King claims officials have failed to properly spend a 2019 investment of $1.9 billion in mental health.

The National Party agrees. Spokesperson for Mental Health Matt Doocey says a fraction of it has gone out the door.

"In two years they have barely spent just over 50 percent of what they are supposed to have spent by today."

Of the $1.9 billion investment, $1.1.billion was earmarked for mental health and addiction services over four years. So far, only $244 million has been spent.

King arrived at Parliament and returned his NZOM on Wednesday, but the Prime Minister stands by the decision to award King the honour. 

"It was in recognition of his work, and it wasn't in any way suggesting the job of mental health is done," she says.

King says he's just getting started.