Dave Macpherson: Right-wing party puts more thought into Mental Health Policy than the others….

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This will be one of the more unusual, and probably contentious, blogs I’ve written, but I’ve come to the conclusion that ACT has paid significantly more attention to putting out a coherent mental health policy than any of the other parties currently represented in Parliament.

Saying anything positive about ACT, the party of corporate business, is not something I have much experience in, so my conclusions are as much a surprise to me as to anyone else!

Having read the policies, which are mostly pretty sparse (or non-existent in NZ First’s case), its clear that

  • the Labour Party is relying solely on the significant mental health funding it put in its 2019 budget, and the future Mental Health Commission, without looking at the improvements needed to turn around a discredited system;
  • ACT has actually read the findings of the Labour-led Government’s mental health Inquiry and has got someone who is not part of the current system to outline an actual alternative to the system;
  • The Greens have certainly got a policy, but it unfortunately reads like the executive summary of a paper prepared for an academic conference, is full of politically-correct phrases and lacks much practical reality, although it makes mention of the role of primary health carers in mental health;
  • National – the party that presided over the biggest increases in suicide rates this nation has ever seen, had a Minister in charge correctly nicknamed ‘Dr Death’, and oversaw collapsing facilities and services right around the country – has as its mental health policy a call for more resources to be given to the police to cope with mental health callouts (I’m not joking, their mental health ‘policy’ links only to their police policy);
  • NZ First, a month out from the election, has no mental health policy as yet – my news for them is not to bother, as with a bit of luck they won’t be back in the next Government.

It’s all a far cry from 2017, where mental health issues and policy were pretty much front and centre of the election campaign, and were being regularly raised at election meetings and out on the streets. Several surveys three years ago put mental health as one of the key issues affecting voters’ thoughts, and it certainly formed a significant part of the incoming Labour-led Government’s first policy initiatives, one of them being the establishment of the 2018 Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.

The Inquiry essentially found that the mental health system was broken, as were many of the facilities and services; that many people couldn’t access appropriate (or any, in some cases) help; that family and whanau were often excluded from being involved; that the impact of addictions on mental health was poorly understood; that Maori and Pasifika were way over-represented in the statistics while being way under-represented in the response planning and governance areas; that acute facilities were creaking, crumbling, understaffed and in need of replacement; that there was a high correlation between mental health problems and poverty, poor housing and unemployment – and that the whole sector had been starved of funding for years.

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ACT’s policy has – to a certain extent like the Labour-led Government’s – acknowledged the need for a dedicated Mental Health Commission to govern the response to the mental health crisis the country is experiencing. They openly state the need to take the delivery of solutions out of the hands of the Ministry of Health and the DHBs, going further, correctly, than Labour in that respect.

Labour is still in thrall – in the mental health sector – to the same mental health professionals who regard themselves as the only arbiters of correct mental health policy; who presided over the appalling mental mess delivered by the previous unlamented National Government, and who continue to position themselves, both in the Ministry and in the DHBs, to be the continuity cheerleaders going forwards. So, despite the significant mental health funding improvements put forward by the Labour-led Government’s budget, the changes needed (and funded) have barely been seen on the ground, and there is no-one in the Government driving this area. Some of Labour’s concepts have been very good – like mental health support workers being placed in schools, but this has only been rolled out in a handful of ‘pilot’ situations; and the correct acceptance of the link between poverty, housing, unemployment and poor mental health, but where we have only very recently seen improvements in Living Wage policy and benefit levels and conditions. Some, like the removal of mandatory training of police recruits in dealing with mental health callouts, have been poor.

ACT seems to acknowledge the importance of those with mental health problems being placed at the centre of decision-making about their care and support, and the huge role mental health NGOs can (and do, where allowed) play in delivering that support. The problem with its policy arises where, reading between the lines, it would effectively set up a ‘competitive’ system for mental health care providers, who would be contracted by the Mental Health Commission, and where I can see private sector entities muscling their way in…..’Radius, for peace of mind’, ‘BUPA, we will set you straight’, etc, etc. ACT also fails to acknowledge the link between poor mental health and wider societal issues, with their policy treating it as somewhat of a standalone issue.

The news is that the only two platforms worth considering in the mental health area are those of Labour and ACT, where Labour needs to be served a written warning about its failure to perform after a good start, and where the hard right economic party might start gaining traction if the incumbent doesn’t start fronting up with some results.

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

27 COMMENTS

  1. NZ, like most other nations, is in the midst of the collapse of economic arrangements that have dominated for many decades, and more and more people are going to find themselves unemployed and unable to function in the manner they were used to prior to the commencement of the highly-visible phase of the collapse.

    The government and all the would-be governors are in deep denial of reality, and seem to think that everything will carry on much the same as before the ongoing repo crisis of 2019 and the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

    With a totally distorted set of daily living paradigms that are proving destructive to individuals and destructive to the very life support systems we need to exist, yet caught in the mainstream narratives of ‘recovery’ and squandering of energy and resources, millions of people are going to find themselves ‘up the creek without a paddle’, with no way out of their predicaments when the ‘triple tsunami’ of financial meltdown, energetic meltdown and environmental meltdown fully hits: what we have experienced over the past 6 months or so is merely a small taste of what is to come.

    With the government and all significant political parties firmly locked into denial of reality, we must anticipate utter chaos in the near future, as the hopes and dreams and aspirations of ordinary folk melt away, and as the budgets of businesses, corporations and governments are ripped to shreds throughout the world. Eventually the whole system will be exposed as an elaborate scam run by money-lenders, corporations and opportunists.

    No one can predict the exact timing or the sequence of the unravelling, but it is worth noting that most corporations are ‘running on fumes’, recipients of central bank ‘money-printing’ yet still unable to make profits commensurate with their share prices. Meanwhile, an awful lot of consumers are only managing to stay afloat because of government hand-outs that are progressively blowing budgets. Indeed, there are already indications that the much anticipated September prelude to yet another ‘October surprise’ is underway.

    We’ll probably know by the end of this week.

    Needless to say, none of our major institutions (government, city and district councils, regional councils, banks, corporations, community organisations) appear to have a clue what is going on, where we are headed and what needs to be done. Indeed, all of them are firmly locked into policies that make practically everything WORSE.

    If by some miracle of ‘creative accounting’ the economic system can be held together beyond the November election, all that will happen is the can that has been kicked down the road for decades will be even more battered than now, and the potholes in the road will be deeper and more numerous.

    The economic system has fundamental flaws, inconsistencies and contradictions, and until they are addressed everything that matters, including health, will continue to be made worse. And no one in a position to do so is prepared to address those fundamental flaws, inconsistencies and contradictions. So everything that matters -the habitability of the Earth, local carrying capacity, biodiversity, pollutions levels, social cohesion etc. gets made worse.

    In the meantime, anyone not already doing so needs to take up gardening -one of the most therapeutic activities available in a world gone mad.

    • Kheala – Fact is that in many areas, NGO’s have been infinitely more effective than govt has been. But by NGO’s, I wouldn’t include commercial entities, but more altruistic groups like the Sallies, Plunket, and some
      Maori entities – the odd philanthropist.

      • Snow White: “…in many areas, NGO’s have been infinitely more effective than govt has been.”

        True. I used to work in one such, many years ago. In my experience, depending upon donations for funding forces people to be creative and drives efficiency.

        It isn’t always so, of course, humans being what they are.

        However. I also worked many years in the publicly-funded health sector, and I have seen up close the different mentality which is apt to prevail when the gummint provides the money. Even when it’s considered to be insufficient to run a service.

        I’m not so certain as I once was, that commercial entities cannot be relied upon to deliver effective and efficient services. It does depend upon the type of service. But the need to turn a profit doesn’t a priori entail crap service delivery.

    • No we shouldn’t privatise anything! Take Kiwibuild – much much better in Govt hands. That’s why it was as a total success!!!!
      Onwards and upwards with Labour Expertise!

  2. Out of the MOH into the unfree market!
    Take it out of the hands of politicians and bureaucrats.
    Mental health should be part of all-govt wellbeing targets backed up by funding of therapeutic communities cooperatively run by carers, not careerists, along with those in care.
    If the private sector want to help what about providing good jobs on living wages and decent housing.
    Failing that let’s have a revolution.

  3. Yes in spite of some die hard pro Labour fog horns deriding ACT they actually do have some well thought trough policies. Their approach to things like taxation and GST is worth a look too. They are also one of the few parties who stand up for free speech which is important unless we want to end up looking like police state Australia.

    I’m not so enthused by their environmental polices but I would say they are not a lot different to others I have seen. All parties in my view need to do a lot better on this front.

    • Sean: “….deriding ACT they actually do have some well thought trough policies. Their approach to things like taxation and GST is worth a look too. They are also one of the few parties who stand up for free speech which is important unless we want to end up looking like police state Australia.”

      Agreed. And the free speech thing is vitally important to all of us. Andrew Little’s wrong-headed hate speech Bill needs to be defeated in the next term.

  4. I do find that a party that promotes gun ownership and personal responsibility, is not a party to be wanting to align yourself with in mental health.

    • Which is interesting considering – unless you are an Australian – gun owners are vetted including their mental health.
      Tell me, do empty leftist parrots get any vetting?
      What are your thoughts on requiring doctors to give gun owners information to police (something they already could if concerned)?
      Just going to stop them seeking help isn’t it?

      • You are so wrong on many counts!
        Having been sent out to a farm where we were reassured that all guns had been removed from a mental health clients armoury, we confronted by said client whom had 30 more stashed away. Fortunately and with past experience, we were accompanied by police, given the state of this persons mental health.
        Sadly this person eventually took their own life- with a gun( not a doctor in sight).
        So when you “empty ignorant righties” parrot complete and utter nonsense, put that in your memory banks for a rainy day.

        • I don’t believe the police vet unlicensed gun owners.
          He didn’t have a gun license, mr education.

          You will be pleased to know, thanks to ignorance like yours, murdering unlicensed drug dealers like that guy have more human rights in NZ than licensed gun owners, the right to silence, presumption of innocence, search warrant.

          A brave new world you idiots are bringing us.

        • I’ll talk slowly:
          https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/393951/name-revealed-of-man-charged-with-waikato-murder

          The 37-year old is charged with the murder of 23-year-old Faalili Moleli Fauatea at Hauturu near Kawhia on 6 June.

          He is also facing charges of three counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, selling a class-C controlled drug, possession of methamphetamine and the unlawful possession of a firearm”

          Hint: unlawful possession =he is not licensed to hold that gun.

          I don’t believe the police vet unlicensed people for firearms do they?

          • Idiot! Keep promoting ACT and guns. Your arrogance is your downfall.
            As long as guns are promoted these types of weapons will be available. Drop kicks like yourself, uneducated opinions offer nothing and the election will be proof of this.

        • Bert: ““All of Williams’ shots – fired with a military style semi automatic rifle -”

          Well now. I’ve read that link. What’s the point you’re trying to make here?

          I note that Williams had a gun cabinet, so he may well have had a license for his weapons. And yes, MSSAs had by then (I think) been made illegal by parliament, but that was not long before the offending in question took place. And at that stage, the buy-back scheme had either not yet got under way, or had only just started.

      • What is usually overlooked by the general public is that the one class of firearm ownership that was banned by the legislation (E category, or MSSA) was already vetted to a very high extent. Those of us (including myself) who had this endorsement were vetted to a higher standard than is required for serving police officers. People with the E endorsement were responsible for exactly 0.00% of firearm violence, so logic would suggest banning this specific highly vetted class of firearm ownership would do little to prevent firearm crime. Vetting was never the issue when it was actually done properly (ie when the police were not diverting funds away from this part of their activities), the issue appeared to be about Govt control of the population.

    • Bert: “….a party that promotes gun ownership and personal responsibility, is not a party to be wanting to align yourself with in mental health.”

      I don’t follow your logic here. What have gun ownership and personal responsibility to do with anything?

  5. the ngo sector has traditionally done a better job, at least on average, because it wasnt dominated by the professional “best practice” of the psychiatry and psychology professions whose university departments have been churning out weak research for decades which gets appl9ed out of context to bolster their “best practice” models.
    the professional orthodoxy is what needs to change. there are alternative but they havent reached the ground in the mental health system.
    for those working in ngos, referring to mental health was always a last resort option if there was signifcant harm risk and no one else to take on care of the person.
    but ngos are now becom9ng more and more dominated by “best practice”. so i suspect thngs will get worse before they get better!
    its not about needing more funds for the same 9deas to carry on dominating.

  6. I, david seymour, Leader of the ACT party, if I’m elected as Prime Minister, do solemnly promise to end to poverty, increase taxes on the hyper wealthy by a hearty 80% on personal earnings about $1 million and a 99.99% tax increase in personal earnings above $5 million dollars. I also promise to open an investigation into primary industry funds being secreted away in off-shore tax havens and I promise a 100% tax rate on foreign owned bank profits to in some way atone for roger douglas’s unbridled greed disguised as a political ideology promising things that were never intended to be delivered.
    I promise that beneficiaries get a 300 % increase in benefits, plus free housing, free internal air travel to visit whanau and free educations and dental and health care.
    I also promise to initiate a full and public inquiry into the machinations of the labour iteration of neoliberalism which, by all studies, directly links the catastrophic decline in AO/NZ’s standard of living which gave rise to the steepest rise in prison musters of indigenous peoples in the western world, a dizzying increase in suicides and dysfunction generally while at the some time monetised the very criminals born of an overpowering dysfunction seen in recent memory by allowing private prison systems to harvest the very same dysfunctional’s the neoliberals created out of poverty and drug addiction.

    I’m not fucking david seymour. I’m lying. Just like he does and see how easy it is? All he has to do is invent shit then say it and it turns up here for sober debate? What. The. Fuck !?
    Is it this easy to pull the polyester/ wool blend over your eyes? Are you fucking kidding me! ?
    The greasy little twerker with roger douglas’s scratch marks all over his arse is that convincing! ?
    The very fact that the ACT office isn’t burning down as the twerker runs crying and blubbering past douglas strung up over a lamp post as I write is why we’re soooooo fucked.
    seymour is cynically playing you @ DM. He’s the protege of vile little roger douglas, for Gods sake remember that. seymour doesn’t care about you or your troubles. He’ll simply pick on a contencious issue, lie about how and what etc then chuck it out there to catch the fishes.
    My advice would be to ignore the narcissistic little fucker at the very least. ( BTW seymour. Your twerking looked more like you were scratching your arse hole on a door nob.

  7. I can see private sector entities muscling their way in….

    Yep. And then what’s to stop it becoming, ultimately, Serco Stage Two?
    Privatised prisons are bad enough; profiteering from Mental Health is not a good way to go.

      • And therein lies the issue.
        The majority of people with mental health issues cannot access the system.
        Society is left to deal with the issue.
        Yes of course the rich can have a week or two at Capri and sort themselves out.
        The average person has no such choice. It wasn’t that far back that people with mental health issues could go to Hanmer Springs and be cured.
        Now they will end up on the street and be terrorised by local councils.

        • Ummm… no. The State provides funding to people to access these private providers. You might argue there should be more money available to do so but that is not the same as stating people are not able to access the help because they are private.

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