Mental health and rugby: How ‘beast’ stereotypes can harm Pacific Island men

Almost half of New Zealand pro rugby players are Māori or Pasifika, so alarm bells should have rung at reports of Pacific men committing suicide.

Pacific Island/Māori men make up almost half of the professional rugby players in New Zealand.

In the NRL, the figure is 42 per cent. So when reports of young Pacific men committing suicide started to emerge in recent years it should have been an existential crisis for the codes themselves.

Ma’a Nonu is probably the greatest No 12 in All Blacks history but it took an age before people considered him to be more than a ‘physical’ player.

That it wasn’t shows young Pacific Island men are still “outsiders” rather than “insiders” in the sports and their mental health challenges are poorly understood.

In the NRL, the figure is 42 per cent. So when reports of young Pacific men committing suicide started to emerge in recent years it should have been an existential crisis for the codes themselves.

Ma’a Nonu is probably the greatest No 12 in All Blacks history but it took an age before people considered him to be more than a ‘physical’ player.

That it wasn’t shows young Pacific Island men are still “outsiders” rather than “insiders” in the sports and their mental health challenges are poorly understood.

But Auckland University academics Caleb Marsters and Dr Jermaima Tiatia-Seath are changing that, with Marsters leading a study into young Pacific Island players and mental health.

Their findings outline how Pacific cultures view mental wellbeing in a fundamentally different way to the “individualistic” European/Western model, and also put context around the current tensions between religion as sport as evidenced by the Israel Folau controversy.

And they also indicate that one of the stresses that Pacific Island men must deal with is living up to the stereotype of being physically dominant, the enforcer: in essence, of being the Jake the Muss.

“What comes to mind is that Once Were Warriors movie,” Dr Tiatia-Seath tells Stuff. “Along with that comes aggression, standover tactics, physical dominance . . . and so you can imagine that can be transferred out on the field.”

Jason Taumalolo is a strong man but his position among league’s elite also has a lot to do with his intelligent running lines.
​Marsters interviewed 20 Pacific men from ages 16-24 for the study. Thirteen played rugby and seven played league, and the majority were either semi-professional, fully contracted or in development teams.

Leveraging his personal and sporting networks, trust was a key factor in Marsters getting them to open up. Once that was established, he found them forthcoming about their lives.

The interview subjects emphasised how they valued a holistic approach to mental health.

One typical response was: “An example is when things are good with family, your girlfriend, you’re good with God, content, studies are going well, and you’re playing well. To me that’s positive mental wellbeing.”

Former All Blacks No 6 Jerome Kaino never seemed particularly at ease with the ‘enforcer’ tag others gave to him.
When just one of these areas was ‘off’, the athlete’s entire sense of happiness suffered.

But they also carried the burden of having to be the ‘beast’ or ‘warrior’ on the playing field, the player who sees asking for help as a “weakness”.

“You’re almost living double or multiple lives,” Dr Tiatia-Seath says. “For those players in the public eye they have to carry that persona, which is untruthful for most part.

“It’s not entirely who we are. People tend to just focus on the physical aspect, which does bring a lot of discomfort to our population, because there is more to our men and players than just that.”

Cultural icons such as ‘Jake The Muss’ have reinforced the idea that Pacific Island/Maori men are defined by their physical traits.
Cultural icons such as ‘Jake The Muss’ have reinforced the idea that Pacific Island/Maori men are defined by their physical traits.
It was one reason, she says, why players such as former All Black Jerome Kaino struggled with the “enforcer” tag. On the paddock he was expected to be the hardest man on the planet but off it the label didn’t sit comfortably with him.

Marsters and Dr Tiatia-Seath acknowledged that physical strength Pacific Island players brought was something of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand young Pacific Island men had traits coveted by coaches, which meant they could attain sporting success and bring pride and socio-economic benefits to their families.

On the other hand, when people focused on these traits to the exclusion of their other attributes it could make young Pacific men less likely to ask for help when they are struggling and perpetuate the old myths about Pacific players being unsuited to to decision-making positions.

Players such as Richie Mo’unga at the Crusaders and the Highlanders’ Josh Ioane are killing off the myth that Pacific players can’t be the best decision makers.

“It’s changing ever so slightly,” Dr Tiatia-Seath says. “In Super Rugby we’re seeing a browning of first-fives … but still they aren’t getting as much game time as non-Pacific first-fives.

“[Then] You have a player like Ardie Savea. If he wasn’t Pacific he’d be getting a lot more exposure and yet I rate him as one of the country’s best. And the first thing that people hone in on is his size.”

Marsters also says there is a lag between how the Pacific Island community sees itself and how it is perceived by rugby and rugby league talent scouts.

“The talent we’re seeing a lot of these clubs trying to recruit is those positions, the explosive wingers, the big props or the forwards but it’s changing.

Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, the co-head of the School of Maori Studies and Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.
“Within our own communities these views have been changed for a while now. We know we can play other positions and contribute differently to society but on the outside, the big recruitment that is going on in our communities is still largely looking for those features – big and strong.

“It’s still more a positive than a negative but it can place limiting stereotypes on our young men.”

Understanding the triggers for mental health issues for young Pacific men could hardly be more urgent.

Marsters says both Pacific males and Pacific youth experience higher rates of mental illness and are less likely to access mental health services or ask for help than other New Zealand population groups.

Marsters says New Zealand sports organisations were now doing a better job of accommodating Pacific cultures but there was still a way to go.

“What we’re seeing now is the wake-up call,” he says. “The reality is Pacific athletes do come from a cultural and social background that is quite different to those running the sport.”

For Tiatia-Seath, the key to better mental health for young Pacific men was changing the narrative so that the ‘warrior’ tag had a broader meaning.

“We’d like to change that narrative so that it isn’t being about a dominator physically, rather we see a warrior mentality with someone who has thrived in the face of adversity and is resilient and is able to perform at a high level in among all the pressures external to the code – familial obligations, church obligations, and high family expectations.”

Stuff

Significant shortage: Mental health nurses hard to find in Canterbury

A significant shortage of mental health nurses is putting staff at risk of burnout and impacting on patient care, an advocate says.

Specialist mental health services in Canterbury, based mainly at Hillmorton Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital, have vacancies for 60 full-time equivalent registered nurse positions. When fully staffed, the total nursing workforce is 550 full-time equivalent positions.

The number of vacancies was revealed in documents prepared for a Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) meeting this week. Staffing challenges were being monitored and managed daily and additional staffing options were being explored, the report says.

The shortage of nurses elsewhere in New Zealand has been described as a crisis. In July, the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation suggested the army should be brought in to help at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital because it was reportedly so understaffed.

Bernice Gibbs, chairwoman of consumer group Awareness: Canterbury Action on Mental Health and Addictions network, said having up to 60 vacancies was a huge issue.

“There would be issues around staff burnout, people working double shifts, and lots of overtime going on,” she said.

“That’s going to have an effect on your performance as a staff member and ultimately that’s going to have an impact on patients.”

The difficulty recruiting mental health nurses also raises questions about how new services around the country aimed at people with mild to moderate mental health needs would be staffed. The Government announced funding for the so-called universal frontline service in Budget 2019.

Health Minister David Clark said in a statement that the new services would require another 1600 full-time workers over five years, and the Government had allocated $77 million to train those people.

DHBs were “having to play catch up” with their workforces “after years of neglect”, he said.

“We are funding them to do so. We increased the funding for mental health services delivered by DHBs by $200m over four years in our first Budget and by a further $213m over four years in the Wellbeing Budget.

“The ministry is also working to increase the nursing workforce generally and will soon have some good news soon specifically around mental health nurses.”

PSA organiser Anthony Rimmell said unions representing mental health nurses in Canterbury were well aware of staffing shortage issues. Staff were being asked to move between units to make sure they were safely staffed and were also asked to take on extra shifts.

“The reality is people shouldn’t be having to consider working extra shifts to make sure that their wards are safe.”

Gutschlag said when there were shortages on a ward, the CDHB attempted to cover this from a casual pool of nurses. If this was unsuccessful, they would ask permanent staff if they could take on more hours.

“This does lead to situations where some nurses work overtime,” she said. “While this is closely monitored and we do aim to keep the amount of overtime nurses do to a minium, the current shortages in the workforce and high rates of sickness make this challenging.”

There were several initiatives in place to support staff wellbeing, Gutschlag said. The CDHB had also recently offered employment to at least 12 enrolled nurses, subject to them passing their exams, she said.

Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik opens up about mental health battle

Mayim Bialik has filmed a short video opening up about her battle with depression.

Mayim Bialik has advised those living with mental health issues to never give up on treatment.

The 42-year-old actor, best known for playing Dr Amy Fowler in the hit comedy The Big Bang Theory, has filmed a short video opening up about her battle with depression.

The video was filmed for the Child Mind Institute and aims to break-down the stigma surrounding anxiety and bipolar disorder.

“What I would like to tell my younger self about mental health is that there are answers,” Bialik said. “For me, some of those answers I had to wait years to find and I needed to get different help, which ended up being the right kind of help.

“But I had this notion when I was younger that if something didn’t work once, or a therapist didn’t work or a medication didn’t work, that nothing would ever work. I wish I could have told my younger self [that] something will work.

Fellow actor Ryan Reynolds opened up about his own struggle with mental health last week, telling a New York Times reporter he uses the meditation app Headspace to deal with panic attacks.

“I’ve always had anxiety,” he said. “Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been in the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.”

stuff


The NZ HERALD: Shoe Project launches with 579 shoes to represent every suicide last year

Empty shoes symbolising the 579 people who fell victim to suicide last year are making their way from the top and bottom of the country to end up on Parliament’s steps.

The Shoe Project will kick off on Sunday in Aotea Square, Whangarei and Invercargill with 579 pairs of shoes each.

The footwear will travel around the country before ending up on Parliament’s steps on September 10. A public meeting will be held the day after for bereaved families to talk about the change they want to see in the presence of politicians.

Recycle Boutique manager Lisa Wright has lost four young family members to suicide as well as her partner’s older brother. They were all young men and she’s passionate about speaking out to help them.

“It’s a horrible thing. So many people I know have ended their life.

“No one wants to talk about it, it’s such a taboo and stigma… There’s just not enough help out there to ensure this doesn’t happen.”

Wright’s workplace donated shoes to the project and Wright herself will be at the event on Sunday.

More than 200 families who have personally felt the devastation of suicide are involved in the campaign.

Project spokesman Simon Oosterman said they are campaigning for a suicide prevention target and an independent inquiry into the country’s mental health crisis.

“Not many people realise 579 people [committed suicide] in 2016, that’s a record number. When you see it it really hits you how many people we’re missing. It can be distressing for people but we need to talk about it.

“The majority of people who commit suicide need help and it’s not there.”

Three mums who lost their young sons to suicide have written an open letter in support of Yes We Care’s six election pledges. One of those mums, Patrice Harrex, lost her 25-year-old son Brad Anderson when he was released from hospital despite saying he wanted to take his own life. Two days later he was dead.

“If I was the health minister I would be hanging my head in shame and pulling my hair out thinking ‘what the hell are we going to do about this?,” Harrex said. “It’s time for action.”

The letter urged the Government to acknowledge there was a mental health crisis, provide support and do something about it.

Budget 2017 has set aside an extra $224 million for mental health, including $124m for new approaches.

Prime Minister Bill English recently advocated for online therapy to address the country’s high suicide rate.

The shoes will be set up for the project’s launch at Auckland’s Aotea Square, Whangarei’s Canopy Bridge and at the Gala St entrance to Queens Park in Invercargill at midday on Sunday. The footwear will be blessed at Bluff and Cape Reinga with the bereaved families in a private ceremony on Saturday.

Yes We Care’s six election pledges
​• Set a suicide reduction target
​• Hold a mental health inquiry
​• Restore $2.3b in health funding
​• Increase primary health, GP funding
​• Commit to safe staffing
​• Make every home healthy

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.​

Mental health inquiry a unique opportunity, let’s take it

The key groups calling for an inquiry into our mental health system welcome today’s announcement says the YesWeCare.nz health funding coalition.

The Government will announce the details of an Independent Mental Health Inquiry after 4 pm today in Wellington.

Bereaved Whānau Network spokesperson Jane Stevens, who lost her son Nicky to suicide in 2015, says real change starts with real people’s voices being heard.

“The success of the inquiry will depend on the broad participation of those directly affected by our mental health crisis and suicide and sustained political pressure and momentum to ensure lasting change,” Stevens says.

ActionStation’s People’s Mental Health Review spokesperson Kyle MacDonald says the inquiry is a rare opportunity for Kiwi’s voices to be heard.

“So many people struggle to access the help they need, when they need it,” MacDonald says. “The inquiry needs to clearly outline practical solutions that make the right help available.”

Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust spokesperson Corinda Taylor who lost her twenty-year-old son to suicide says the coalition’s goal is to ensure people feel safe and supported to take part.

“People who have been silenced, stigmatised and marginalised will need support to speak out,” Taylor says. “We need to make the change needed so other families don’t go through what my family and others have gone through.”

Public Service Association national secretary Erin Polaczuk says the union will continue to work with coalition partners and community groups to build a platform to achieve lasting change.

“Mental health demand increased by more than 70% since the last Government came to power in 2008, but funding has been for less than half of what’s needed,” Polaczuk says. “It took the people using and working in mental health services standing together to achieve this goal, and it will take our continued effort to ensure mental health workers get the funding and resources they need to serve our communities.”

Maternal Care Action Group spokesperson and mum Kristina Paterson says everyone can volunteer in the coalition’s campaign and the support of those not directly impacted is critical.

“The thousands of mums and babies affected by perinatal depression* due to delayed diagnosis and treatment need your help,” Paterson says. “This is our moment, help us and be a part of it.”

The public can sign up to the campaign, volunteer and donate at YesWeCare.nz.

ENDS

For editors

YesWeCare.nz is a new health coalition of health service users and their whanau, people bereaved by suicide, community groups and people working in health and their unions.

The coalition and its members’ campaigns were key to making mental health a key election issue. In the lead up to the election, the health coalition collected more than 150,000 petition signatures, shared a thousand personal stories, took 606 shoes across New Zealand, each representing a kiwi lost to suicide, and got a commitment for an inquiry from every party except National and Act.

Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust ran the first petition calling for an inquiry into our mental health crisis in November 2016. The trust’s latest petition has 85,000 signatures. (http://goo.gl/inb23U).
Hana Ready and YesWeCare.nz’s petition calling for an inquiry after Mrs Ready’s 15-year-old took her life, has 56,000 signatures (http://change.org/mydaughter/)
The People’s Mental Health Report calling for an inquiry collected 500 stories and made four recommendations was signed by more than 10,000 Kiwis including prominent New Zealanders (https://www.peoplesmentalhealthreport.com/)
The Bereaved Whanau Network and the Public Service Association took 600 pairs of shoes, each representing a Kiwi lost in the last year to suicide across New Zealand, in the lead up to the election.
YesWeCare.nz shared a further 500 stories in the media in the lead up to the election.

  • Perinatal depression relates to pre and post birth.

Contacts

YesWeCare.nz co-ordinator and media liaison Simon Oosterman is available on 027 526 8704.
ActionStation spokesperson Marianne Elliott is available in Wellington on 021 110 6086, including at Parliament after 4 pm following the announcement.
Bereaved Whanau Network spokesperson Jane Stevens is available for interview in Ngāruawāhia or Hamilton on 021 222 0191.
Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust spokesperson Corinda Taylor is available in Dunedin for 021 293 0094.
Maternal Care Action Group spokesperson Kristina Paterson is available in Auckland on 022 093 1822.
People’s Mental Health Inquiry spokesperson and Psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald is available for interview in Auckland on 021 708 689 between 9 am – 11 am, 12 noon – 1 pm and 3 pm – 6 pm.
PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk is available for interview in Wellington on 021 793 075 before 4 pm. PSA National Secretary Glen Barclay will be available for interview on 027 295 5110 outside Parliament at 4 pm following the announcement.

579 shoes start the journey to Parliament

579 shoes, representing each Kiwi lost to suicide in 2016, start their journey to parliament from Whangarei, Auckland and Invercargill today.

The shoes will be setup at the Canopy bridge in Whangarei and the Gala Street entrance to Queens Park in Invercargill from 11am.

A separate collection of shoes will travel around Auckland, starting in Aotea Square at 11am.

Events are listed at: http://facebook.com/yeswecare.nz/events/

The shoes were blessed in Bluff and Cape Reinga yesterday.

They will travel across the country and arrive on parliament grounds on September 10, International Suicide Prevention Day.

The North and South Island collections have shoes for eight children aged 10 to 14, 51 teenagers, 419 adults and 101 older adults over sixty who lost their lives.

70% are men’s shoes.

17 are gumboots for farmers and farm workers.

In each town a bereaved local will share a personal story about loss and the hope they have for a change in government policy.

Each speaker, many who have never shared their story before, will hold a pair of their loved ones shoes.

The YesWeCare.nz health funding coalition and the Public Service Association, New Zealand’s mental health union, is supporting the events.

YesWeCare.nz coordinator Simon Oosterman says bereaved families want politicians to have the courage to put politics aside and “do what’s right”.

“Hearing the number 579 is shocking, seeing 579 empty shoes is something else ,” he says. “Too many of our loved ones are reaching out for help and not getting support because our mental health services are in crisis.”

Oosterman says families are calling for a national suicide reduction target, an urgent independent inquiry into our mental health crisis and restore $2.3b of funding needed to cover our ageing and growing population since 2008.

Jonathan Coleman vetoed setting a suicide reduction target.

National refuses to hold an independent inquiry despite 77% of New Zealanders wanting one, he says.

“The gap between demand and funding is growing as funding hasn’t kept up with our ageing and growing population with increased mental health needs,” he says. “Demand for mental health services have increased by 60% since 2008 with funding to 2017 only increased by half that.”

The Government announced an addition 1.2% in funding in the March Budget.

This includes a $225m fund including $100m for social investment.

But analysis by the doctors union (ASMS) found the Government was only putting $18m of new money in for 2017/18.

Oosterman says with demand expected to be 7.3% this year, the Government has cut funding in real terms even further.

Two bereaved New Zealanders are supporting families in each island.

Jane Stevens, from Waikato, is supporting the North Island events.

Mrs Steven’s son Nicky, 21, went missing from a mental health inpatient unit on 9 March 2015.

His body was found on 12 March.

Diane Hill, from Nelson, is supporting the South Island events.

Mrs Hill lost her husband Jake, 45, on 22 October 2014.

She says her husband, “a typical bloke” who worked up until his death, was also let down by an underfunded mental health system.

Stevens is carrying a pair of her son’s shoes with her across the country and Hill is carrying her husbands work boots.

Oosterman says the campaign will announce which parties support bereaved families political demands on Tuesday 29 August at the Hamilton shoe event.

The event will be held at Nicky Stevens memorial besides the Waikato river where his body was found.

Mrs Stevens and her husband, Waikato DHB board member Dave McPherson, were the first to publicly call for an independent inquiry.

Bereaved families from across the country will meet with politicians face to face on September 11 in an intimate meeting open to the media to talk about loss and their hope for change.

September 11 is the first day of advanced voting.

Volunteers donate shoes across the country.

Shoes will be donated to charity after the roadshow finishes.

ENDS

For editors

Key facts, including suicide numbers by age and gender and region can be found at http://yeswecare.nz/the-shoe-project/facts
Event dates can be found at http://facebook.com/yeswecare.nz/events/
Yes We Care’s six election pledges

​Set a suicide reduction target

​Hold a mental health inquiry
​Restore $2.3b in health funding
​Increase primary health, GP funding
​Commit to safe staffing
Make every home healthy
Contacts

Jane Stevens and Diane Hall and families in each town are available for interview through YesWeCare.nz coordinator Simon Oosterman on 027 526 8704.

What we did in 2017

This holiday season we want to share what we achieved together in 2017 and how you can help in 2018.

We had an ambitious goal to make our mental health crisis and health under-funding key election issues. Our eight-month campaign finished with 606 shoes, each for a Kiwi lost to suicide in the last year, arriving at Parliament. By the following day every party except National and Act committed to our six crowd-sourced election health pledges. By election day, media said health and mental health were top election issues.

Here’s how together we did it
Surveyed 6,000 people working in health. It found nine in 10 felt under resourced.
Collected more than a thousand stories and shared more than 300 in the media. They included health service-users and their families, families bereaved by suicide and people working in health.
Travelled across New Zealand raising awareness about health and mental health underfunding. We took 200 life-sized cut-outs of health workers missing due to underfunding with us. It was covered in 40 prominent stories in local and national media. We published daily videos and our roadshow trailer was seen by 50,000.
Ran a poll that found only 13% thought the National Government was doing enough around mental health.
Supported community groups to tell their story in the media.
Ran a grassroots health funding conference.
Supported courageous life-saver Danielle MacKay to get a cochlear implant. She was going deaf and had been waiting for more than three years. Our 26,000 strong-petition for Danielle pressured the National government to fund 60 more implants.
Collected 22,000 signatures for Rachel Palmer. Rachel has been bedridden for two and a half years because the National government denied her treatment for Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes.
Developed six crowdsourced health pledges which every party committed to, except National and Act.
Ran health candidate forums across the country.
Took 606 shoes, each representing a Kiwi lost to suicide, across New Zealand. We raised awareness about suicide and called for an urgent independent mental health inquiry. It was covered by more than 100 stories, opinion pieces and editorials locally and internationally. A number of videos went viral including 1.5m views on a video for BBC and another with almost 300,000 views. One Radio NZs story was one of their most viewed ever.
Designed and helped put up a cheeky billboard in Jonathan Coleman’s North Shore electrorate with ActionStation.
Collected 37,000 signatures for Hana Reedy’s petition for an independent inquiry into our mental health crisis. A month earlier, her 15-year-old daughter took her life after not getting the care she needed.
Supported families bereaved by suicide to build a national democratic voice.
Met with the new health minister to ensure the mental health inquiry is independent. We want to ensure the voice of service-users, people bereaved by suicide, and people working in mental health are at the forefront.
Warning: Video mentions suicide

What we’re going to do in 2018
Continue to support bereaved families to build their own organisation. Sign up here.
Support Kiwis to take part in the mental health inquiry. It will begin in early 2018. Sign up here.
Support people working in health and mental health. We should be treated with respect, be paid enough to thrive and not just survive, and have safe workloads.
I’d like to make a final thank-you to the Public Service Association members who funded YesWeCare.nz and made this all possible.

Enjoy your holidays season, and know we are very grateful for your support.

Thanks,

Simon Oosterman

On behalf of the YesWeCare.nz coalition and the Public Service Association

2017 election pledges

The following letter was sent to all political parties. National and Act did not respond.

Dear political parties and candidates,
As families who have lost loved ones to suicide, we know a bit about courage. We’ve had to ask ourselves difficult, uncomfortable questions.

We need you to have courage too. We need you to ask difficult questions about our mental health system. You’ll need the courage to put aside politics and do what is right for every Kiwi.

We write to ask you to support the YesWeCare.nz coalition’s six election pledges to ensure every Kiwi gets the care they need, when they need it:

Set a suicide reduction target
Set a suicide reduction target taking into account the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 10% by 2020.

NZ has the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD. 579 people died by suicide in 2015/2016. Nothing will change without a clear, measurable target to give focus and accountability. A goal gives hope. If we don’t have a clear target how will we ever achieve our aspiration of zero suicides? The Ministry of Health’s Independent Suicide Prevention Advisory panel recommended one. So did the Director of Mental Health. Health Minister Jonathan Coleman

Hold a mental health inquiry
Hold an independent mental health inquiry in the first 100 days of the new Government, and commit to fund what it identifies as needed.

77% of Kiwis support an independent inquiry into mental health service. We need to know how an emergency department can release a teenager who says they want to kill themselves? Or why children have to wait three months for an eating disorder appointment, but the Ministry says this doesn’t happen? Or how the Government says staffing is sufficient when nine out of 10 people working in health feel understaffed

.

Restore $2.3b in health funding
Restore $2.3b of health funding to cover unmet annual health costs, commit to increased costs annually, and fund a national survey on unmet need.

The Senior Doctors’ association (ASMS) and Council of Trade Unions say the Government has underfunded health by $2.3b. Funding hasn’t kept up with our ageing and growing population, increased mental health needs, inflation, wages and new medicines. This mean’s we haven’t been able to maintain our current inadequate levels of service. In mental health this has resulted in delays which can, and have been, deadly. The mantra “do more with less” has become “do less with less”.

Increase primary health, GP funding
Significantly increase primary health funding to bring down GP and primary health costs, including therapies and other mental health needs.

One in six Kiwis can’t afford a GP. We have the worst access to equitable primary health, second only to the United States. The little primary mental health services that exist are inadequate. Only a limited amount of free therapy sessions are available and waiting lists are long. Most can’t afford to go private and go without.

Commit to safe staffing
Commit to evidence-based safe staffing to ensure patient safety and quality care.

Nine in 10 people working in health feel understaffed. People working in health do the best they can with what they’ve got, but they’re stretched and many feel burnt out. 70% feel their workload or work pressure is unreasonable. Unrealistic caseloads and fatigued health workers jeopardise patient safety. Understaffing reduces the ability to provide the level of care people need. Mental health staff often work 16 hour shifts to cover for vacancies.

Make every home healthy
Require landlords to make their rentals warm and dry, and subsidise low-income homeowners to achieve the same for their homes.

Having a healthy place to live is key to physical and mental well-being. Yet 40,000 children in New Zealand are admitted to hospital every year from preventable illnesses linked to poverty and unhealthy homes. Homes should much us feel safe and loved, not sick.

(We shouldn’t even have to ask for the first pledge.)

Don’t let other families go through what we have
As politicians, you can make a real difference to Kiwis when they are most vulnerable. Like any mental health issue, there are three steps to getting help. You need to acknowledge we have a mental health crisis, provide us support and do something about it. Don’t get stuck at the first stage, have the courage to take every step. Suicide is preventable and good policy is key.

Taking no action leaves the responsibility on the bereaved, service-users and their families, and a stretched workforce. We’ve already got enough to deal with.

There is hope. We believe working with you collaboratively is an important part of our healing process.

Yours sincerely,

Corinda Taylor, mother of Ross, 20
Maria Dillon, mother of Harry, 18
Patrice Harrex, mother of Brad, 25
On behalf of bereaved families in the YesWeCare.nz coalition.

All political parties agreed to our pledge except National and Act who didn’t respond to this letter.

The following organisations support this open letter:
ActionStation
Ambulance Professionals First / First Union
Council of Trade Unions
E tū
Life Matters Suicide Prevention trust
Maternal Care Action Network
New Zealand Nurses Organisation
Parents of Children With Additional Needs (POCAN)
Peoples’ Mental Heatlh Review
Public Service Association
Tertiary Education Union (TEU)
Unite
United Community Action Network Aotearoa NZ

Home

Since 2008, demand for mental health services has increased by more than 70%. Yet the previous Government increased funding by less than half that. The gap between demand and funding meant hospitals have turned away families struggling with kids in life threatening situations.
The Mental Health Inquiry is a unique opportunity to fix our crisis – if real voices are heard.
Real change needs real voices. Many have been silenced, marginalised and stigmatised. An inquiry will only listen to those who turn up. We need to actively support vulnerable Kiwis to speak out safely.
This is our moment. Make it count.
We made mental health a key election issue by building political pressure and momentum. We did it by sharing personal stories about Kiwis affected by our mental health crisis and their hope for change. With your help we can build the momentum needed to get the care and services we need and which lasts longer than a single election cycle.
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WHERE TO GET HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

For others, click here.

Authorised by Erin Polaczuk, Public Service Association, 11 Aurora Terrace, Wellington, New Zealand.