Strong support for Govt's mental health inquiry

By Regan Paranihi

Alcohol Healthwatch and Hāpai te Hauora strongly support the Government’s pledge to address the growing needs surrounding mental health and addictions.

Anthony Hawke of Hapai te Hauora says, “The announcement of the Mental Health Inquiry is opportune as we mark the 5th birthday of our new liquor laws. The links between our growing problem with drinking and poor mental health need to be addressed. The Government was right to include addictions into the inquiry into mental health. In 2012 we had the chance to raise the price of alcohol and save lives. We didn't. Our communities paid the price. Now is the time for this to be remedied.”

Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch Dr. Nicki Jackson says, “ Alcohol has become considerably more affordable since our new laws were put in place. Drinking has become worse. The Government has stated that all solutions to improve our mental health are on the table.”  

She says research shows that raising the price of alcohol could potentially reduce suicide rates among young males.

Hawke believes an increase in tax on alcohol is fair and those who drink the most should pay the most.

“A tax increase will target cheap drinks, particularly those bought at off-licenses. It will hopefully mean fewer drinkers come to pubs in town already loaded up. And better mental health is better for everybody.”

Dr. Jackson sees the new year as a great opportunity for New Zealand to reconsider its affiliation with alcohol and the impact it has on mental health.

“The most harmful drug in society is also one of the cheapest. Should we accept that, in 2018, you can buy a bottle of wine for $5.99? For one individual to save a few dollars, everyone pays the price. How many more lives need to be lost before we take serious action?”

She says the change is targeted at heavy drinkers as the rise in cost will affect them the most. Tax increase will be a key component of their recommendations put to the Mental Health Inquiry.