Dave Macpherson: Is Covid-19 a threat to mental health?


Some of the more disingenuous right-wing social media commentators have started using the line that the Covid-19 lockdown has led to increased suicides and mental health crisis callouts.

While it’s a revelation to see how right-wingers have suddenly become not only attuned to mental health problems in the community, but actuallyconcerned about them, their angst can be revealed as crocodile tears designed to sway doubtful lockdown supporters against Level 4 and Level 3 restrictions.

Mental health authorities and, more importantly and more independently, police have stated that there has “been no significant spike” in calls related to mental health.

Social media rumours that there has been a spike in suicide rates during the lockdown have been described by the Mental Health Foundation as “irresponsible and untrue”.

This includes claims made to me by a bunch of Tauranga National supporters that there had been an upsurge in farmer suicides because of the lockdown. Interestingly, I saw a comment by a sheep and beef farmer who is Mayor of Mackenzie District, attacking Mt Cook’s Hermitage Hotel for closing, accusing it of creating unnecessary unemployment and stating that “most farmers have resilience” and that tourism businesses should follow their example.

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Having said all that, there is no doubt that the lockdown has thrown up unique mental health challenges for many Kiwis, just as it has thrown up new examples of individual and community resilience. More than ever people have needed contact with their friends and whanau, but there are hundreds of thousands of social media-carried examples where this contact and ‘checking in’ has increased, and where people have been more inclined to say how they are feeling electronically than they had in person a couple of months ago.

A major concern is the ability of mental health and community support services to cope with a new crisis, on top of the previously existing mental health crisis. There is a looming large increase in unemployment and financial hardship, and the link between economic wellbeing and mental wellbeing is clearly established. In the Canterbury microcosm, the Christchurch earthquakes have shown this country some of the long-term effects of major crises, but the big question is – has the Government learnt from this and prepared for this.

While not yet true, the right-wingers’ scare stories of dramatically increased mental health problems and suicides might yet be realised if the Government does not have a plan beyond business handouts and big infrastructure builds in the next stage of the crisis.

I am unconvinced that their agencies, the Ministry of Health and it’s attendant DHB Mental Health Services, have the foresight, ability or organisation to cope with the mental health fallout from the coming large increases in unemployment and economic hardship.

I fear for the independent community support sector, the NGOs who always end up picking up the pieces in crises like this, but who don’t have the capacity to handle what is coming their way. The foodbanks, nightshelters, community centres and community-based health services will be the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis in the near future.

I fear also for families, who bear the initial brunt, and often the whole load, of caring for loved ones who the system is incapable of caring for, and who get close to zero support from mental health authorities who generally regard family members of mentally unwell people as interfering privacy invaders. This problem is not new, it has continued slightly under the radar over the last 2 months, but it will be exacerbated if there is an upsurge in calls for mental health support.

In the last two weeks, my partner and I have been contacted for help by four families of people with severe mental health issues, that have to date been failed by official support organisations. These are not Covid-19 related cases, but show us clearly that the failing mental health system has not taken the opportunity of the last two month’s reduced scrutiny to improve anything, let alone to crack on with the reforms that the Government has funded it to undertake.

The combination of the Covid-19 crisis and a lame duck Minister of Health seems to have allowed the much-heralded community mental health support improvements from the 2019 Budget to be put to one side.

What this country needs are hard-driving advocates of change in the metal health system to actually be put in charge of seeing through that change. People with strong community links and a good vision of the needed end result.

Unfortunately, what we’ve currently got are the current leaders of the mental health profession being asked to manage changes to the system they devised – akin to turkeys being told to campaign for an early Xmas.

As the Covid-19 crisis restrictions ease, I’ve no doubt the focus on the poor state of our mental health system will once again come to the forefront.

Dave Macpherson – TDB mental health blogger & Former Waikato DHB Elected Member whose son was killed by public health incompetence. 


  1. Agreed Dave,

    We have experienced more communities are mentally depressed and worried about the agonisingly slow pace of restoration of our regional infrastructure since the new Government took control-in late 2017.

    Our region of Gisborne/HB are still waiting for our rail service to be restored after national in 2012 wrecked a one km of the Gisborne rail track by allowing the flood drains to become blocked by ‘forestry slash’ not handled correctly by any rules for control of the forestry activities.

    So eight years later our community sits here still waiting for rail service to be restored, as it had not been restored since Labour coalition promised to restore our rail when it got back into Government.

    These are the damaging situations that deeply affect the health and well being of communities.

    • I note ‘Request deletion’. I decided that bert’s comment was malicious and requested that it be deleted. Does only the commenter have the right to request? Mine didn’t go through. Cleangreen is an honest stressed person commenting, and I do not think Bert is either of those things and doesn’t get my respect.

      • Greywarbler I neither crave nor desire your respect. Please reread the article and then the book Dirty Politics. As someone who works in Forensic Mental Health it disgusts me that people will circulate rumours via the media of increased suicide so as to make political gain. As mentioned by the author Tauranga right wing supporters.

        • Bert I care about people’s mental health and it seemed you were dissing Cleangreen. A case of me being too sensitive and misunderstanding your meaning. sorry.

          Reading the post again it seems that there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about it with farmers apparently being shamed if they are not ‘strong and resilient’. This extract below shows the problem of hyperbole from some
          mayors and leaders downplaying real problems:
          This includes claims made to me by a bunch of Tauranga National supporters that there had been an upsurge in farmer suicides because of the lockdown. Interestingly, I saw a comment by a sheep and beef farmer who is Mayor of Mackenzie District, attacking Mt Cook’s Hermitage Hotel for closing, accusing it of creating unnecessary unemployment and stating that “most farmers have resilience” and that tourism businesses should follow their example.

          When it comes to farmers, anybody could get worn out trying to make the dreams that shills for banks and finance companies have sold them. It would be good if farm and town could combine and from sister communities. We are split in our own country and need cohesion and friendship here even more than with cities far away in other countries.

          • And applogies for any offense Greywarbler, it was not in anyway a reference to Cleangreens post.
            It was purely in reference to those that seek political interference through unscrupulous , falsehoods and devious means.
            As you rightly say we should all be in this together.
            I also value your sensitivity.

            • ??? what happen to “Greywarbler I neither crave nor desire your respect.”
              If YOU work in FMH Bert then…I’m a rocket scientist!
              lol, Some of you on here need serious help! Starting with you Bert.

              • Ross, trolling again, Bridges needs an audience, off you go! Otherwise talk on the subject of mental health, the area I DO work in, in which I can debate you all day.

                • Sure you do Bert! Lol
                  Every office needs cleaning, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

                  • A Mason clinic bed is ready and waiting for you Ross troll.
                    Given your penchant for not taking a man’s word, anything you post can now be classified as made up.
                    But then reading your posts your not the most intelligent.

                  • And that would sum you up perfectly, denigrating cleaners. It appears you”ve always lived in a bubble Ross troll. Lol.

  2. My mental health has certainly deteriorated. The last vestige of it left the building after a recent experience. A strange whining sound like a giant mosquito seemed all around me, I looked 360 degrees and saw nothing – it went away. Later I went up to the park and had a socially distanced chat with a friend and afternoon tea and heard it again.

    It came to me that it was probably a drone, anyone can buy them and then look at everything that everybody does that can be seen from above, and that it will be common, and that there appears to be no registration or control of these invasive machines. And I felt my ability to be a human, going about my life, finding times of peace in nature and real freedom to become all that a human being can become, is being eroded by coarse, clever, simple-minded, materialistic people who worship machines and are willing to sacrifice human life to have more of them.

    And I thought I wonder how easy it is to learn to shoot, and what sort of gun and ammunition would bring down a drone that was harassing and spying in my area. I think I would need one with telescopic sights. And I thought that I might let go and become an alcoholic, like so many useless, unthinking people who don’t want to see, face and deal to any problems in society but wash them away with some fermented brew.

    Am I going mad – or if you can think things through clearly, is it regarded as just being over-stressed, off-piste? I’m so pissed off that I am becoming hopeless for the future. I think listening to Trump for a minute this morning was enough to infect me with dis-ease; a strong unease for the future of real human humanity, instead getting The Truman Show populated with replicants as in Blade Runner.

  3. Speaking of mental health,

    I’m genuinely concerned for Ardern. We all know her as an empathetic person who cares deeply about others. She’s had enormous weight on her shoulders over and above what any NZ PM has ever had to deal with. Despite that, she’s performed magnificently. Any bias person who previously questioned her leadership skills has been made to look extremely foolish. The rest of us never doubted her for a moment.

    As much as Ardern cares about people, she is also acutely aware that businesses are suffering and has walked a tightrope balancing deaths, business and the mental health of all of us. What about her mental health? Yes, she’s a strong woman and is in a role where making big calls is all par for the course but what’s unfolding at this time is unprecedented. She is also only a human being with all that entails.

    We undoubtedly have vested interest media running interference against the Government on behalf of the National Party. We have highly emotional news stories about people not being able to visit their loved ones in the time leading up to their death. A tragic situation of course but in my opinion, it has no place being aired on the TV news.. Another woman had a miscarriage and was not permitted to have her support person (husband) with her in the room. Very sad story but it’s after the fact so absolutely nothing will be achieved by turning it into a “news story”. I feel for the people involved but others have suffered far worse recently and had to cop it on the chin for obvious reasons. Even today, there is another opinion piece masquerading as a news headline. “Government should take National’s COVID-19 response ideas – Bridges”. Who the fuck is Jamie Ensor via Newshub? Has he not noticed that National is NOT in Government? If our Government abandoned it’s own well thought out policy in favour of National’s, what would the reality be? 1) Government telling NZ, they have failed. 2) Government telling NZ that National are more onto it than they are. 3) it would destroy confidence in every other piece of Government policy etc etc etc. Who are these wankers advocating that bullshit?


    Lastly, the effort of Simon Bridges. It’s nothing short of nauseating. Presenting himself as a person who cares deeply for others is both obscene and farcical in equal measures. His goal is “scoring hits” against the Government. He’s been at it all day every day for two and a half years barking at every passing car. This even included the crusade over the absurd accusation that Ardern covered up farcical alleged sexual abuse. Bridges demanded Jacinda step down as PM despite there not being a shred of evidence against her. Bridges set himself up as judge and jury. I have yet to see an apology for his vile underhanded conduct when the truth was confirmed that the story was a farce, the alleged victim was a liar and that Ardern had not covered up anything.

    Bridges is the most divisive NZ politician I’ve ever witnessed and the least trustworthy. He will stop at nothing to become the PM. This of all times is the moment in our history where the very last thing we need is a divisive undermining campaign being run against the PM and her Government. They have obviously very carefully considered all factors and made calls accordingly. History will judge Ardern very well and Bridges very badly. Time Bridges slid back into his hole.

    Imagine this scenario. It’s easy if you try. The Government is very concerned about a second and third wave of Covid-19 and all that entails. They are beating the drum repeatedly to stay home and stay safe. Not just for you, but for everyone else. Imagine there are a bunch of selfish ignorant tossers out there who only care about what they want. Everyone else can go fuck themselves. The people that have died here are old and were going to die anyway so what’s the problem? They use whatever warped logic they can to justify disrespecting the all important well thought out Government directive. Out from their slimy holes slide arrogant piss ants like Duncan Garner, Mike Hoskings and worst of all, Slyman Bwidges. They are telling the public the exact opposite message to the Government. We don’t need to be in lockdown. Fuck your health and that of other Kiwis. All that matters is money and business. We had 9 years of that short sighted divisive shit. That was plenty long enough. Selfish gits don’t need any encouragement but the arrogant and divisive shitheels quoted are giving them that encouragement. Imagine if the 1pm daily update confirmed for example there were 28 new cases yesterday and the second wave had arrived. How devastating. Who would be that surprised given the circumstances? If that occurred, the three wankers mentioned should be charged with treason and forced to sell all of their assets to compensate the victims families.

    Being undermined every step of the way when you already have so much on your shoulders would get to anyone eventually.

    • You are a braindead Moron , like others here.
      “the government” … etc.
      WAKE T. F U.

      The “government” that you hoped is supposed to be “looking after” (peoples) Kiwis interests is just a childish illusion.
      Today so -called “NZ Government” is actually a registered corporation. Look it up.
      Means PROFT before PEOPLE…EVERY TIME.
      That means Vaccines via Bill Gates who owns World Health Organisation and he is quoted as being in favour of DE -Population.

      • You sound really down Audrey. I wish I could say that what you say is all poppycock!
        But don’t let it get to you – whistle a happy tune. Bobby McFerrin Don’t Worry Be Happy (be resigned for say half an hour) – just to take a break from absorbing negative information for a while. Then have to come down to personal people, and get someone to do a kind favour for you, and do one back to them or someone else, and ask them to keep the favour flavour rolling. At the end of the day only love will keep us together.

  4. Having thoughts about shooting drones is no more than a symptom of being alone with ones self for longer than one is used to. Acting on those assumption based thoughts enters one into Te world of insanity. CG has some interesting points to make, but rarely shows a grasp of the “big picture” required to put his opinion in a useful perspective. What he wrote this morning, leaves out any mitigating, or relevant factors as to what the barriers are to reforming health, education, social welfare, and capital works. The two biggest hurdles this govt faces are the mainstream media propaganda campaign, which kicked in 5 minutes after Winston made his choice of partner public, and the senior management of the ministries charged with facilitating government policy. My “solution” would involve a clean out from the top down. Time the barking dogs of the traditional powers were consigned to history, for the sake of rational progress that takes society with it.

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