Not enough 'lived experience' on Government's new mental health commission - advocate

It's being claimed there's not enough people with "lived experience" of mental health illness on the Government's new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

The commission's five members were announced on Thursday, comprising of Hayden Wano, Kendall Flutey, Kevin Hague, Julie Wharewera-Mika and Kelly Pope.

Health Minister David Clark has pushed back on suggestions there wasn't enough input from people who had been through the system in the group.

"Kelly Pope, who is a young woman from Christchurch, has lived experiences. Others have experience close to them," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"Certainly all have been heavily involved in the sector. But I don't want to speak for them on their experiences. It is, I believe, a panel that looks across New Zealand, represents a broad range of people.

"From the sector, we've had nothing but praise for the broad range of people that are on there and the respect that they come with."

But mental health charity Voices for Hope founder Jazz Thornton told Newshub Nation the group needs more former patients.

"Definitely not [enough]. I think that there's sections of it that's great and people have been consulted, but I think, looking at the board that's been appointed, that we're lacking in lived experience."

She said that experience is going to be invaluable for the group, which is tasked with looking at how to improve long term mental healthcare and reporting back to Dr Clark within one year.

"I think that it's really hard to restructure something or a system that you've never been in," she said.

"I think lived experience is so important because a lot of [people], even the clinicians, don't know what it's like to be on the other side so having that lived experience is so vital if we want to actually see change that is going to be beneficial for this nation."

New Zealand's suicide rates increased in the last year. In the year to June 30, 685 people took their own lives - 17 more than the previous year. 

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