Mental health need is increasing and it needs to be easier to get help, Northcote’s electoral candidates agreed in a Facebook live panel discussion that quickly became personal.
Green Party candidate Dr Rebekah Jaung, who works as a doctor, said it is both patients and healthcare workers who are affected by “chronic underfunding” of our healthcare system.
“We need a Government to take healthcare and especially mental healthcare seriously, give it the funding and the people-power it deserves to actually make a positive difference.”
Juang added she wished the health minister was there to talk about himself.
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Health minister and incumbent MP Jonathan Coleman was going to attend the debate, but was called on to support a Government announcement that day, August 29.
Labour candidate Shanan Halbert, who works at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, said the estimated 606 suicides in the most recent year, were people “from our community”.
“I know that because I’m an educator and, unfortunately, we have had a recent death of one of our past students,” Halbert said.
Currently, the first referral for a young person is through technology.
Halbert said, that is fine, but what is most important is people are able to interface with a mental health worker, especially in secondary schools, as Labour is proposing.
“It’s really disappointing that our local MP [Coleman] isn’t here today. That tells me that our local MP assumes that he is going to be the local MP moving forward.”
ACT candidate Tim Kronfeld said he would bat for Jonathan Coleman.
“It’s a national tragedy [suicide] … everyone is affected by knowing someone who has committed suicide,” Kronfeld said.
We are spending over $16 billion a year running our health services, making changes to the shotgun system.
I endorse what Prime Minister Bill English has done, challenging the “same old, same old”, he said.
It is not a political thing, it’s a community thing. It’s about talking about it and trying to get people to input into it, he said.
Jaung added there is currently a health deficit, as spending on health per capita and as a portion of GDP has fallen.
“The minister and the Government can try to impress me with figures and new spends, but it doesn’t mean much for sometime trying to access basic primary healthcare or fill a prescription for their medication,” she added.
Coleman told Stuff the next day, the demand for mental health has greatly increased. This is not just in New Zealand, but globally.
The Government spends $1.4 billion a year on healthcare, Coleman said. In the Budget, there is an extra $224 million, on top of the $1.4 billion, of which $100 million is for new ways of approaching mental health, Coleman said.
“We had to completely redevelop the mental health unit 18 months ago,” he said.
“While we have to increase access to specialised services, we also have to look at earlier intervention.”
Evidence shows that electronic help works really well, Coleman said. But providing a school-based programme to detect mental health earlier, is essential to ensuring people are better equipped to deal with mental health and wellness issues.
“But, there is no question that we have to do things differently.”
Coleman defended his energy for campaigning locally: “I have never taken this seat for granted. I’ve worked very hard to build genuine relationships in the community. Unfortunately, as a senior minister, things happen where you have to support.”