A young woman living with mental illness has urged officials in charge of an inquiry into New Zealand’s embattled mental health system to act fast, before more Kiwis die.
Shailah Anderson, 23, spoke with passion to a six-member national Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry panel visiting Palmerston North on Friday.
The psychology student, who has been a service-user and provider-in-training, says when she hit rock bottom, help was not easy to find.
“There’s all sorts of barriers. You have to figure out the systems, finances, advocates – and then you have to have money for travel and medication.
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“People are brave and ask for help, but then [providers] disengage and that help’s not really there any more.”
She was “frustrated” many of the problems described to the inquiry panel had been known for years, but pleased speakers were “on the same track”.
“If you try to fix something that’s broken, sometimes you just need to leave it and bring in a new way.
“But it’s not so reassuring thinking how they are going to enact it, and how long’s that going to take? Because someone will probably die tomorrow and today.”
Anderson spoke as part of a group who made a submission representing about 40 organisations in the area served by the MidCentral District Health Board, which reaches from Ōtaki through Horowhenua and Manawatū to Tararua.
Submission presenters and inquiry members cast a wide net in discussions about mental health and addiction problems. Ideas included adequate funding, community gardens, healthy eating, cultural enrichment, and abandoning the primary and secondary healthcare models.
The inquiry was among Labour’s first-100-day campaign promises, made in the midst of publicity for widespread concerns surrounding the effectiveness of services.
The panel, including Manawatū’s Mason Durie, has been asked to listen to people affected by mental illness and addiction.
It will recommend changes that can help people get the help they need and improve public confidence. It is due to report back to Health Minister David Clark by October.
The wide mandate gave the panel broad scope to delve deep into problems affecting the sector, inquiry chair and former Health and Disability commissioner Ron Paterson said.
Submissions formally opened on Friday, and can be made by mail, email, phone and online by June 5, and can be made anonymously.
There are 30 dates set for regional visits, including 15 where the public can take part. Friday’s meeting was not open to the public, but a public meeting will be organised for Palmerston North, a spokesman for the inquiry said.
Details about submissions are at mentalhealth.inquiry.govt.nz