Mike King – my resignation letter to the Ministry of Health

By   /   May 16, 2017  /   14 Comments

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Let’s face it, this plan is only ever going to be window dressing, and is never going to get the public on board without a major, open and independent review of mental health services. Without an adequately funded sector, and a stocktake of the structure and provison of services, we are just fiddling around the edges.


Mike King has been a member of NZ Suicide Prevention External Advisory Panel since December 2015. The panels role is to help shape the NZ Suicide Prevention Strategy for the next 10 years.

The following Letter of Resignation was sent by Mr. King to the Ministry of Health this morning:

Kia Ora Dr. John Crawshaw,

I have been feeling increasingly concerned about many aspects of the Draft Suicide Prevention Plan that has been opened up for public consultation.

When the Suicide Prevention External Advisory Group was appointed 2015 Sunny Collins stated that we should look for a “bold new vision” and we should not be afraid to “throw out the old and bring in the new.”

Unfortunately all I see when I look at the new Draft Proposal is more of the same i.e. Pandering to minority groups, continuing to fund failed experiments and further isolation for vulnerable New Zealanders.

Firstly the “Vision”:

“A New Zealand in which all people are able to look forward, experience a life worth living and have pae ora (healthy futures)”

At our last external advisory meeting on 04/11/16 there was general consensus that this was a slogan that had been made by committee, and as such it was something ordinary New Zealanders would struggle to buy into. At the same meeting we agreed that there was a need for a “vision” that spoke to the people, a vision that set an actual percentage target. We started at Zero before settling on 20%.

This was confirmed in the meeting notes received on the 26/11/16

“Concerning the vision and goals the group agree that there was a need:

· for a goal that spoke to the public – for example a specific reduction that is tangible

· Agreement that a goal of 20% reduction in the rate of suicides over 10 years (the course of the strategy)”

What happened to that? Have we returned to the defeatist attitude that some degree of suicide is acceptable, inevitable, or both?

Secondly the “Purpose”

“The purpose of the strategy is to reduce the suicide rate through reducing suicidal behaviour.”

How many evidenced based studies and academic geniuses did it take to come up with this glaringly obvious statement? You could have saved everybody a lot of time by just going to the last New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy and ‘cutting and pasting’ it from there because it says exactly the same thing.

“The overall purposes of this strategy are to:

• Reduce the rate of suicide and suicidal behaviour”

And just in case the silly people of New Zealand don’t understand what ‘suicidal behaviour’ is, the proposal goes on to explain:

“Reducing suicidal behaviour for all people means fewer people hurting themselves intentionally, thinking about suicide, attempting suicide and dying by suicide.”

For me this perfectly sums up why this Draft Proposal will struggle to get any traction whatsoever. How stupid do you think New Zealanders are? I have seen children treated with more respect than has been shown here.

Thirdly the “Pathways”

• Building positive wellbeing throughout people’s lives

• Recognising and appropriately supporting people in distress

• Relieving the impact of suicidal behaviour on people’s lives.”

What does any of this even mean? These statements are so broad and vanilla they can mean everything and nothing at exactly the same time. And when you read the expanded synopsis it reads like a party political broadcast. “We will strengthen individuals. We will strengthen family and friends. We will strengthen communities and we will build environments that promote positive wellbeing!” Cue flag waving.

The most galling of these 3 pathways for me is pathway number 2.

“Recognising and appropriately supporting people in distress”

In case you didn’t already know suicidal people are recognising that they are in distress everyday but when they turn up to access the ‘appropriate support’ in doctors, counsellors, pyschologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists offices and emergency departments up and down the country they are being repeatedly told they don’t meet the threshold for help. What is the point in ‘recognising distress’ if the help isn’t there?

Finally the “Overview of potential areas for action”

This section is a masterclass in butt covering. Here you give “a list of potential areas of action for everyone to focus on together….” the list is so broad ranging and generalised if anyone questions ‘where something is’, you can simply say “we’ve got it covered!”

When I was first invited to be part of the external advisory board I was hugely optomistic that we were going to be able to bring something new to the table but at the end of the day we couldn’t even get you to agree to a target of “a 20% reduction in suicide over the next 10 years”.

The plan has buried all the new ideas in such impenetrable language they are beyond recognition and unlikely to ever see the light of day. It is a strategy that is so broad in its effort to please everyone it will eventually collapse under the weight of public expectation. This will please no one – except you and the politicians you serve.

Let’s face it, this plan is only ever going to be window dressing, and is never going to get the public on board without a major, open and independent review of mental health services. Without an adequately funded sector, and a stocktake of the structure and provison of services, we are just fiddling around the edges.

It would be funny if people weren’t dying.

I therefore resign from the external review panel, effective immediately and I will be publicly advising people of my stand. I believe this whole process is deeply flawed, and being conducted in bad faith.

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14 Comments

  1. garibaldi says:

    ….’and being conducted in bad faith’. You have nailed it Mike.
    Why didn’t the media point this last phrase out? Rhetorical question because they are donkey deep in sweeping mental health issues under the carpet too.

  2. Strypey says:

    Good on you Mike. Those of us struggling with chronic mental health challenges need a functioning set up of public mental health support services, not a serious of “cheer up mate!” PR campaigns. We also need investment in deep social science research to understand the stressors that are corroding so many people’s mental health, so we can transform our social environment -particularly our political-economic environment- so that it supports good mental health. Until the chronic underfunding of frontline services and the lack of rigorous research into cause and effect are addressed, the epidemic of poor mental health (including suicide) in this country will continue unabated.

    • Michal says:

      I agree with much of what you say Strypey. I remember when living in auckland someone saying to me, well to get into public mental health you pretty much have to slit your wrists first. I only now get because I am a senior and that has a separate budget. God knows why so many peple have depression and related issues these days.

  3. Jack Ramaka says:

    Thank Harold Titter and Rogernomics for starting the “Rot in the Mental Health System”!!!!

    • countryboy says:

      Aaah ! See ? @ JACK RAMAKA has hit the scum bag on the head. Pity it wasn’t literally. roger douglas and his trickle-down, state assets sell-offs mantra has come home to roost.
      I had a friend suicide recently and his partner told me it was over money. Hung himself off a balcony. I’m not kidding. Would I kid about a suicide? Yes, I would.

      Money. M.O.N.E.Y.
      Money baby.
      Homeless, penniless, worthless, uninsurable, unbankable, can’t borrow, in debt. Deathly debt. Mortgage. Latin = Debt until Death, brothers and sisters and wee beasties.

      Banks. B.A.N.K.S.

      Dirty, filthy, vicious, deviant Banks. Rachett up The Shit Storm then sell debt, death and despair.

      Where was I going with this ?

      Oh, yeah. Fuck the Banks ! That’s right. ( A gap in the effect of the meds. )

      You will all learn, come a dark time, to suspect the Banks. The BANKS. They wait at the maternity home, the wait at the school, they wait at the university, they wait at the job, they wait at the ‘ rest home’ and they wait at the grave side and if you fall by the wayside and fall further and further and your clothes look tattered and your car looks ten years old and you fear the mail box and you avoid the window envelope lurking, like a fucking scorpion, in your mail box, and who was that fucker who rang at 8.00 am on Saturday morning and what do I tell the kids and my wife who loves me but will she ? If she sees the statements? And the power bill is due and my rates are late and a tooth is loose and my dogs got a fucking sore on its arse and my cats pregnant and I need to fill the fridge with white shit and my arse has stopped working now and my ears ring and my heart skips a beat but only now and then, whew! And I need to mow the lawn but I can’t afford the gas for the mower and you know what ? Fuck it! I’m outa here…..

      If you want to curb the Kiwi suicide rates, and I assume you do, then BURN DOWN THE BANKS ! ( I can’t find a bigger capital letter? Here’s me thinkin’? Computer literate Ba Ha, Ha. Computer? Give me money? Computer says….. No
      https://youtu.be/AJQ3TM-p2QI )

  4. mary_a says:

    I applaud Mike King for standing strong on his principles.

    Well done Mike for exposing the deep flaws in NZ’s mental health system notably its less than satisfactory treatment of some of the nation’s most vulnerable.

    This is definitely no laughing matter and the more attention given this issue the better. Hopefully Mike’s expose` of the poor state of suicide prevention agencies in NZ, will activate some positive change in the sector.

    Kia Kaha Mike.

  5. Helena says:

    And more pills will create more deaths.
    Thank you Mike for standing so tall.

  6. bert says:

    I work in mental health Mike. All I can say is that you are a man of principles, integrity and honour. As for Coleman and his Government, they are distrusting, manipulative and money centered, not client centered.

  7. saveNZ says:

    Good on you Mike!

    These committees are meaningless and just arse covering and trotting out the same vanilla garbage that everybody already knows.

    OK – identify the problem, tick.

    Do something about it. cross.

    They just never get past the reporting to do something meaningful!

    Especially believe in

    “In case you didn’t already know suicidal people are recognising that they are in distress everyday but when they turn up to access the ‘appropriate support’ in doctors, counsellors, pyschologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists offices and emergency departments up and down the country they are being repeatedly told they don’t meet the threshold for help. What is the point in ‘recognising distress’ if the help isn’t there?”

    These days suicidal people are also becoming so, because the government who is supposed to assist, refuses to do so, such as WINZ and Housing NZ and people are becoming homeless, penniless and forced into debt in spite of numerous agencies who under the National government have become non functioning.

    WINZ don’t give out benefits and support people, they deflect people and have targets to take benefits away.

    Housing NZ don’t rent out houses to vulnerable people, they evict tenants and leave houses empty, sell them or have them in such poor maintenance that they are not liveable.

    It’s crazy!!!

  8. The Weatherman says:

    Of course the government’s strategy is a fraud. If they cared about people’s mental health they wouldn’t sick the SIS on activists until they check themselves into hospital and tell them to “kill yourself”.

    • The Weatherman says:

      Well, they might not use their own agents to say the latter. But they are certainly not beyond asking their international partners to do that dirty work for them when the abused is in a foreign, Five Eyes connected country.

      It will backfire royally, mark my words.

      The repercussions of the NZ government using their foreign 9-eyes partners to destroy and intimidate former advocates overseas, in connected countries, is shocking in itself. It is doubly shocking when the SIS and co actively work to destroy former advocates who have since exiled themselves overseas using 9-tier partners, like Israel, the United States, Hungry, Poland, and others.

      They use those foreign agent agent provocateurs to do dirty work attacking advocates overseas, in a much more vicious fashion. Some have even been active in NZ (I am thinking of one American in particular who helped discredit the Occupy movement in NZ and who later helped destroy the career of a NZ overseas in NZ – a CIA man. He was one of the guys who argued that the Occupy movement was sympathetic to Nazis during that period. I followed his career ever since: he disrupted leftists in Indonesia, and attempted to do the same in Bejing, and then Lao. But he was found out and had to flee back to the United States. Their cover is very good, these guys: the person in question, apart from making claims of Nazi involvement in Occupy in NZ, tried similar disruption efforts overseas. While in NZ, he had worked his way into Unite Union as a volunteer. Lucky I was tracking him, then, to the point of discovering that he was up to his old tricks of pretending to be a radical leftist in Lao.

      I don’t want to cause division, but organizations like the Unite Union need to be aware that they are being watched, and that efforts are made to place agent agent provocateurs in organizations that challenge neoliberal fascism.

      Let this be a warning to those types, all the fake leftists. We know who you are, we are watching you, and we will shut you down for what you did and what you are doing. Pack your bags. Like the above agent, we will expose you, and send you home.

  9. Kim dandy says:

    @ mike – your last line sums up the last decade of National governance – ” I believe this whole process is deeply flawed, and being conducted in bad faith.”
    Sadly it is why nothing will change, in any sector, mental health or otherwise until they are gone.
    Well done on your stance – the whole country needs to do the same.

  10. e-clectic says:

    A high suicide rate is a symptom.
    Inequality is the disease.
    A few palliatives for the symptoms, maybe.
    But, there is no real will to treat the disease.

  11. ankarawshark says:

    Thanks Mike. Read the report after you resigned and found it disgraceful and frankly a joke (but as you said this isn’t funny).

    I work in mental health.

    Talking about distress! FFS

    We know that around 66% of people who kill themselves have clinical depression.

    We also know that levels of hopelessness is the best predictor of suicide. I think hopelessness was mentioned once in the report.

    There is virtually nothing in there about having well trained and skilled mental health professionals to meet the needs of people experiencing suicidal ideation, depression and hopelessness.