Greens want to cut waiting times, appoint Minister for Mental Health

By Te Ao Toa
Green Party mental health spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick at Rātana Pa in 2018.  Photo credit/ Chloe Swarbrick, Facebook.

People with acute or severe mental health concerns are to receive attention within three hours, under Green Party mental health plans if they are returned to coalition government after the election.

Green Party mental health spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said in a statement on World Mental Health Day that the party is committed to reducing the waiting times people in mental distress experience before receiving assistance.

“When people have a severe mental health condition they need free, quick, quality treatment. We should do everything in our power to stop people getting to crisis point, but there will always be some people who have unpredictable and challenging experiences and our healthcare system should be there for them.

“More than 20 percent of people who need mental health treatment are forced to wait more than three weeks for it, and that’s putting lives at risk."

Swarbrick said last year more than 10,000 people found themselves in this position.

“We will push DHBs to ensure everyone with acute or severe mental health needs receives attention within three hours, and no one who needs treatment has to wait anywhere near three weeks."

In government with Labour, Swarbrick said the Greens had made mental health services more accessible for thousands of young people through the Piki programme, but the country needed to go further.

One initiative the party considers will assist this happen is the appointment of a Minister for Mental Health.

“What is clear is that mental health shouldn’t be treated as a subset of the health portfolio. Mental health is on the increase, particularly during the era of Covid-19. We must dedicate a minister to ensuring that the mental health crisis in New Zealand is addressed.”

The Green Party’s other mental health policy priorities are:

  • Expanding free counselling to everyone under 25, and working towards extending this to all adults.
  • Championing recognition of mental health as a community and country-wide responsibility, instead of placing the burden on people experiencing issues.
  • Funding inpatient and community mental health services at all levels.
  • Improving postnatal mental health services.
  • Funding innovative initiatives that indicate high recovery rates with minimal medication.
  • Working through the cross-parliamentary group, to further destigmatise mental ill health, and build consensus on policy solutions.