Many New Zealanders experience the struggle of mental health personally or through a friend or family member. The current system leaves people with mild to moderate needs on their own or waiting too long for help. It is time to take mental health seriously.
In the Wellbeing Budget this year, we have made an investment of $455 million to create a new frontline service for mental health. It will provide people with immediate access to trained mental health workers at their local health centre. We are already rolling out this initiative by providing funding certainty for services like Mauri Ora at Victoria University, and getting ready to roll out new frontline services across the country.
Our plan is for every New Zealander to have access to a range of free services to support their mental wellbeing within the next five years. We want people to get help early on so we can prevent mild to moderate issues becoming critical.
We are also working to address our critical mental health challenges like our distressingly high suicide rate. Our Wellbeing Budget invested $40 million of new funding into suicide prevention, and with that money we have established a Suicide Prevention Office to coordinate action. We are supporting people at risk, providing free counselling to those who are bereaved by suicide, and expanding suicide prevention services in DHBs, including more ongoing support for people after they are discharged.
The mental wellbeing of our homeless people is often under acute stress. To change the lives of our homeless people, we need to help them with complex needs. Our acclaimed Housing First Programme is doing just that. Housing First, which is currently being rolled out in Wellington, provides homeless people with a house and wraparound mental health services and addiction treatment.
Wellington has also been piloting Piki, which provides free counselling and mental health services for under 25 year olds. It provides our young people with 24/7 support through phone and web services, access to free counselling and peer support. Young people in Wellington are better off with access to these services – they should not suffer because of the cost of addressing their needs.
We’ve invested $1.9 billion in this Budget to addressing mental health. I want every mother, father, brother, sister or friend who has seen their nearest and dearest suffer to know that we have heard the call and we are answering it – mental health is no longer on the periphery of our health system, it is front and centre in all our wellbeing.