Long-term plan for cross-Government action on mental health announced

The Government is launching a new long-term plan to support people who experience mental distress, Health Minister Andrew Little has announced.

Kia Manawanui is described as the "first 10-year plan of its kind", targeting the causes of mental distress and setting out how to achieve healthy futures. It's part of the Government's response to the 2018 He Ara Oranga report into mental health and addiction in New Zealand. 

"The mental wellbeing of New Zealanders will be better supported through this programme as it requires government agencies to work together to promote and protect mental wellbeing," Little said on Wednesday morning.

"We have heard loud and clear the need to place greater focus on promotion and prevention, as well as providing specialist support for those with complex needs. This is part of the Government’s commitment to laying the foundations for a healthy future for all New Zealanders. Mental wellbeing and equitable care should be attainable for everyone."

He said Kia Manawanui sets out short, medium and long-term actions "to be taken across Government with a focus on key areas such as technology, workforce, and investment to make transformative change".

"To further ensure Government’s wider mental health programme continues to progress as it should I have also established an external oversight group chaired by Professor Judy McGregor that encompasses clinical, lived experience and governance expertise.

"We cannot achieve healthy futures if the health sector works in isolation. Kia Manawanui calls for all of us to work together, taking action, from across Government to our communities through to individuals, so people who experience mental illness and distress can be better supported to have the resilience, tools and support they need to regain their wellbeing."

The Government has been under pressure this year to highlight what difference its record $1.9 billion investment into mental health in 2019 has had. 

Critics - like campaigner Mike King - have said nothing's changed in the sector over the last two years, while an August Newshub-Reid Research poll found 70.7 percent of Kiwis didn't think the Government was doing enough to address the crisis.

However, the Government says the $1.9 billion investment is into a four-year programme that takes time to ramp up. It points to a number of initiatives that show progress is being made, such as more than 570 FTE roles being established to provide new primary mental health and addiction services and new suicide prevention initiatives being funded. 

In August, a $1.2 million Mental Wellbeing Innovation Fund was created as a means of funding support from non-government organisations

Little has said on a number of occasions he's frustrated by the length of time it has taken for some projects, like new mental health facilities, to come to fruition and that COVID-19 has "compounded issues".