Lifeline must not become the latest casualty of New Zealand’s mental health crisis, the Public Service Association says.
The crisis counselling service says it only has funding to run for one more year, and has been forced to put out its hand for public donations after the government refused to help.
Lifeline provides 24-hour telephone assistance for people struggling with mental health issues, and backed Sir John Kirwan’s depression awareness campaigns.
“This is terrible news for Lifeline and for the PSA’s members there,” PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says.
“Lifeline missed out on the National Telehealth Service contract last year, and since then its funding has been under intense pressure.
“We know from our members working in District Health Boards and the community public sector that mental health services are struggling across the board.
“Telephone health services like Lifeline were the safety net which caught those people who fell through the cracks.
“We’re now extremely concerned about what will happen to those people.”
Under Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, the government has removed the ringfence around mental health funding for all but the most acute services.
“Dr Coleman’s own ministry predicts that demand for mental health and addiction services will double by 2020,” Ms Polaczuk says.
“Where will those people go for help, when mental health services at every level are failing due to overwork and underfunding?
“We urge Dr Coleman to back calls by the Green Party and the PSA for a full national inquiry into mental health – and to guarantee funding for Lifeline so it can continue its crucial work.”