Dave Macpherson: Mental health – is the system broken?


Minister of Health sees no mental health crisis

Is the Pope a Catholic?

Of course it’s broken; let’s look at a few reports from the last fortnight:

· 50% of children under 11 referred for a specialist mental health assessment had to wait three or more weeks
· Mid-Central DHB (Palmerston North) has suspended some of its mental health programmes in order to meet their Government-set budget
· 800 kiwi kids under 11 had to wait more than eight weeks
· a young man recently diagnosed as bipolar was given unsupervised leave from the North Shore DHB – his body was found a few days later on a nearby beach
· a retired mental health nurse called for the establishment of village-type residential care for unwell people, as the move away from institutional care had led to many falling between the cracks
· Southern DHB is accused by the Mental Health Commissioner of “failing to provide services to [a young mental health patient] with reasonable care”. He was found dead.
· A high proportion of suicides among farm workers were of young people
· Police refuse to accept applicants undergoing some types of mental health treatment. Labour MP Stuart Nash agrees; both later back down.
· Wellington DHB confirms cuts in mental health beds – claim move is just temporary.
· 35 mental health unit patients at Palmerston North Hospital acknowledged to have left in last year without staff knowledge.

And all this from just one fortnight.

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As a former City Council colleague stated once, “You’d have to be brain dead from the waste up, not to see something was wrong here!”

It seems Health Minister and wannabe Prime Minister Jonathan Coleman fits that description. According to him, nothing is broken and no review of mental health services is needed. His Ministry of Health lapdogs, Director-General Chai Chuah (a qualified bean-counter) and Mental Health Director John Crawshaw agree, and enthusiastically trot out Coleman’s mantra whenever they get a chance.

Despite suicides being at record levels, and NZ having the worst record in the world for young male suicides, every call made for a full-scale enquiry into the country’s mental health services is rebuffed by the Government with a statement that always includes reference to a $300M mental health budget increase made over the last few years, as though that makes everything right.
Dave Macpherson is TDB’s mental health blogger. He became a Waikato DHB member after his son died from mental health incompetence.


  1. Dave, some help is on the way, what with increased policing, a record pay equity settlement, inflation to hit key targets, $10 MILLION FOR ROAD SAFETY STAFF and National supporting the Greens country of origin bill and many other exciting policies, I’m certain something is in the pipeline.

    Call me cynical but one just may think it’s election year. Why weren’t any of the above done years ago? National are only now fixing “their” mistakes.

  2. Of course Mental Health in NZ is broken under neoliberal/zombie economics, the breakdown of the mental health system began in the 1980’s with many patients put back into the community and mental health units closed down.

    Most of the people in our prison system have mental health problems, why do you think they are in prison?

    • @ Jack Ramaka . Exactly.

      The Right Wing who run the mad house they created are a special kind of sick in the head. A rampaging cadre of sociopathic narcissists who’re so mad they’re beyond redemption. And they run this show, a bizarre little thing-country at the bum hole of the planet whom they pretend, to themselves, is some huge affair. They think they lead a noble legion across a vast and sweeping ‘nation’ of proud and prancing ninnies in tights and frocks. We have the population of an average AU city on rich lands and they think we’re the mad fleas on their supposedly sane donkey.
      Jonathan Coleman is the personification of the above. He’s so stupid he can’t manage a dribble yet he’s as cunning as a shit house rat when it comes to his survival. That’s the Right Wing in a nutshell actually. “ Dumb yet cunning. “
      The short of it is that we take the fuckers too seriously and they should be running while screaming and if they’re not? Then who’s fault is that?
      The mere fact that the Right Wing have us fleas convinced that it’s better to underfund public services and health while the Big Cock Wow eee types with OUR billion$ pay fuck all tax and fucking drive about us living in the streets in their/our leased thus tax exempt Lamborghini’s for Gods sake! I mean… C’mon? What’s it going to take?
      Stop. Stand up. Look out. Now say ” Fuck this. I’m not taking this shit anymore. ” The thing the Right Wing dread the most is the very first spark. All inferno’s start with a spark.

      ( On that note. Ever wonder why the ‘opposition’ is all but invisible? I can tell you. They’re duplicitous. They’re just as guilty. )

      • “Jonathan Coleman is the personification of the above. He’s so stupid he can’t manage a dribble yet he’s as cunning as a shit house rat when it comes to his survival. That’s the Right Wing in a nutshell actually. “ Dumb yet cunning. “

        Exactly. As the record historic settlement on pay equity for carers is announced, original advocate Kristine Bartlett stated “They work so hard for frigging hardly anything. It’s been so cruel really. I find it hard to believe that nobody has ever really … how the Government can let this have gone on for so long.”

        It has taken this long because Coleman can play it for all it’s worth in election year. Coleman, as he has done with the “under this government we have invested 300 million dollars into mental health” statement can now use this settlement as the cornerstone for being the most socially conscientious government in history!
        Add to this, increased policing ( in election year) and National will be perceived as noble. Those with an ounce of intelligence, will see through these pork barrel tactics and will also concur that Coleman in fact is a shit house rat.

        Whilst this settlement is wonderful, it’s a case of too little, too late1

  3. Suggestion: Stop smoking dope to reduce the number of people with paranoia.

    We are reaping the whirlwind of drug abuse.

    • Evidently P is cheaper and more readily available than marijuana, so I am told, also highly addictive so you have a captive market once you get your clients hooked on the drug.

      The Asian Crime Syndicates are making money hand over fist here in NZ distributing methamphetamine through the existing gang networks, the local gangsters use their prospects/wannabe gangsters to distribute the products through friends and family, just like pyramid selling schemes?

      This drug is growing mental health problems/population here in New Zealand and the sooner the Government and the Police recognize there is a problem with methamphetamine the better? We need to breakup the cosy relationship between the Asian Crime Syndicates/Gangs/Police?

    • Suggestion: Stop increasing the numbers of those with mental health issues by turning off the immigration tap. This is another National party cockup.

    • Suggestion Andrew: Comment on issues you know about and leave the intellectual issue of Mental Health to those that whom have expertise rather than your worldly views.

      Otherwise, back up your statement with cold hard facts.

      At the moment we are reaping the whirlwind that is under funding those with high and complex needs.

    • Why are people taking drugs, when this country and society are supposed to be oh so wonderful and successful? Why do people rather stay on a secure benefit, when employers lament they cannot find “fit” and “clean” workers?

      Are wages so crappy, that people rather choose to stay on a benefit, or what is it, Andrew? There is a question that must be asked, why do people choose drugs?

      We get the Corrections Minister say now we use pepper spray due to more assaults in prison, next may be tasers, and nobody asks the overdue question, WHY are there more assaults, when prisons are like concrete and steel fixtures, offering NO humane habitation, destroying the last tiny remnants of humanity in the people contained?

      They do not seem to get it, the more pressure, the more attacks, the more dehumanizing, the more restriction and harassment, the worse it gets.

  4. There is a direct correlation between Asian Immigration, methamphetamine imports and rising Auckland house prices, have a think about it along with increasing mental health problems?

    National’s Social Engineering Program?

  5. The government is full of talk and slogans, and elections coming up, will present more token gestures and window dressing. All those who have had a mental health crisis themselves, and those knowing persons who had so, they are well aware that community mental health services cannot deliver, are under resourced and basically send most people back to their GP, with or without medication, nothing else.

    The private sector is full of self serving “experts” who offer counselling and whatever else, they charge at least 180 dollars, often over 200 dollars a session, that may only be for 45 minutes. WINZ only pays so much, upon application, and often wants to see results after a few sessions, and then stop paying.

    Mental health is the poor unwanted child in the family of health care, it makes easier results and better headlines to simply boost elective surgery processes, as most are struggling to get even that.

    I am not at all surprised that many not getting attention after first encounter with mental health services, do simply end up in prison or take their lives.

    This is the big shame of NZ society, there is some talk, but not enough walking the talk, when it comes to mental health care and services.

  6. The change in metal health care in the 1980s moving to a Community Care regime demonstrated the actual value and concerns the establishment had and has for the mentally affected.
    Community Care ment closing the expensive institutions and putting patients on the street ,sure they could attend a clinic as an outpatient, receive their meds which they either took all in one go ,sold or did not take at all.
    This is community care as I know it and not many people in a position to make a difference gave a toss.
    More of the status quo I guess.

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