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Mental health system crying out for help

An independent review into the mental health system in Wellington following five homicides has found serious failings, and highlights the need for a nationwide mental health inquiry, the Green Party said today.

“The serious issues with Wellington mental health services should not be ignored, and neither should the problems that are plaguing our mental health system throughout the country,” said Green Party health spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

“We have heard countless stories of people not getting the help that they need, of problems for people in care, and of a lack of follow up care for patients, but the National Government has refused to undertake a comprehensive inquiry into why these issues keep coming up.

“How many more people have to suffer until the Minister of Health recognises that all district health board mental health services need to do better?” Ms Genter said.

The independent review released today identified clear issues with client recovery plans. The most recent key performance indicator measures for post-discharge community care for mental health patients show that nearly all district health boards (DHBs) around the country are also failing to provide care plans for people who have been discharged from hospital.

“The problem with not having enough support in the seven days following discharge is that these people have increased vulnerability, including a higher risk for suicide,” said Ms Genter.

“When people do not get the mental health care that they need, there are consequences for them and for their loved ones.

“We need a nationwide mental health inquiry. This is now the sixth serious review of a DHB’s mental health system in the last two years and I’m concerned that it will just lead to more tinkering, and not the comprehensive change and improvement we need.

“The National Government has underfunded DHBs for mental health services, and left hospitals so stretched that patients are being consistently failed.

“Our mental health system needs help, and the first step is to have a nationwide mental health inquiry,” said Ms Genter said.