Nanaia Mahuta – Column

Nanaia Mahuta, MP for Hauraki-Waikato, has offered to regularly contribute to the Post Newspaper on topics she believes our readers may find interesting. This month, she discusses mental health and the crisis within.

There is a tipping point in mental health and our system is in crisis. We need to do more as a society to ensure that the necessary supports are available to help whanau respond to a range of mental health needs.

The growing complexity in mental health highlights the need for a range of community based services to support people. The current system is geared towards “acute unwellness” to meet the threshold of being able to access publicly funded services. Early intervention and respite care is required for our young people. If they are to have any hope of finding long-term wellness and reducing their reliance on drug and alcohol addictions, we need places for them to go.

Community insights have shown me that a heavy reliance on medication for treating sufferers may be fine for acute unwellness but no substitute for early intervention, time out and respite care.

Families struggling to find support to help their whanau continues to frustrate them. Supported accomodation options are limited and care options within whanau have been exhausted. These are not easy times and the Government needs to review the network of support available in the NGO and community sector.

While the Government took steps to prevent the onslaught of synthetic cannabis, in some respects the damage had already been done. Suicide rates continue to be high amongst our young people, the numbers of young people not engaged in education, employment and training should give us cause for concern. Set against the backdrop of increasing poverty and inequality, there is a perfect storm brewing.

The public health system should be relied upon to sort this issue out. Not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because it is necessary if we are to ensure that young people have a prospect of being supported when they need it most and are able to lead productive lives. Our young people deserve more from the mental health system—it’s an election pledge that would make the difference.
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