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Suicide Prevention Advocate calls for more doey and less hui on mental health

Suicide Prevention Advocate calls for more doey and less hui on mental health – fact: change will take time

The Executive Director of the New Zealand Maori Council and mental health and suicide prevention advocate has called for calm across the political divide on how long it is taking when it comes to reform of the mental health system:

“As someone who has been involved in reform for many years and who has often held the Government to account on suicide numbers, underinvestment and more what we do not need now is mental health continuing to be a political football during the election campaign.” Tukaki said

“I have seen it during the National years and today is no different – instead, what we need is agreement across the aisles when it comes to this very important Kaupapa. The Greens are calling for a dedicated Minister for Mental Health while ACT wants to create a new Mental Health and Addictions Authority. To be honest both are great ideas but, in all truth, the current Government has already put the nation on the path towards a plan for mental health and suicide prevention and we must see that through.” Tukaki said

“When I released the embargoed suicide data just over a year ago and broke Government convention I did so because of sheer frustration that not enough was being done to take action but in all reality, and someone who has been involved in systems reform for years the fact is it will not happen overnight and if we believe some of the candidates for political office it will – that is just preying on the most vulnerable in our society and I won’t have it. Particularly when I know we cannot just magic up an estimated 10,000 mental health workers to meet current demand. It takes at least 12 months to train less than a quarter of that number and have them in place – while also supplementing those leaving. For Maori this is key because it will take time to both build capacity and capability for providers – and that incudes infrastructure.” Said Tukaki

“The challenge of mental health and suicide has been amplified by COVID19, of that I have no doubt, but at the same time we need to focus our energy on getting things underway with fact and not fiction of exactly what it will take to overhaul our system – on the mental health side that also means not just more beds in wards but release support and respite care – it means greater investment in new addiction and rehabilitation services as well as a growing workforce to meet demand.” Tukaki said.

“We have an interim Mental Health Commission in place and my call for all concerned is to get the mahi underway instead of distracting ourselves with political policies – we already know where the gaps are, the barriers and challenges – to delay any further while mental health becomes a negotiation tactic for would be coalition partners is not what we need right now – what we need is to get the plan underway and set the course so we all New Zealanders who have a the care and support they need in their darkest moments.” Tukaki said

“And when it comes to Maori can I just say the only way to address the high rates of suicide, addictions and mental health is to ensure that Maori are at that table not just co-designing these models but leading the design, the implementation, the management and much more” Tukai said

Tukaki is the former Chair of Suicide Prevention Australia and was instrumental in large scale suicide prevention reforms in Australia as well as being a former Chair of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention.


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