Young people forced to wait for mental health help

The Health Minister needs to urgently undertake a nationwide inquiry into mental health services, after new figures have revealed that young people are facing unreasonably long waiting times to receive follow-up appointments after seeking help, the Green Party said today.

Up to 3297 young people around New Zealand had to wait longer than eight weeks to have a second face-to-face appointment with a medical professional in the last year after seeking help. The figures show wide variation between different District Health Boards, with between 11-53 percent of young people having to wait more than eight weeks for the appointment that they need. Rotorua, Taupo, the Hutt Valley, and Canterbury are amongst those with the longest waiting times.

“Mental health services are struggling all around the country because of Government cuts to the overall health budget, and our vulnerable young people are paying the price,” Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw said today.

“New figures released by the Coroner last week show that New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the OECD, and I think it is unacceptable for young people to be waiting this long to get the help that they need.

“For Health Minister Jonathan Coleman to believe it is fine for 26% of young people to wait more than eight weeks to get the help they need is just not good enough.

“Young people are seeking help for a range of mental health issues, including severe depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

“No one should not have to wait weeks on end to get the medical help they need.

“The National Government has underfunded DHBs and community services, scrapped the Mental Health Commission and chosen to focus resources on targets that don't include mental health. The most vulnerable people in our society are the ones bearing the brunt of these decisions.

“There urgently needs to be a nationwide mental health inquiry, similar to the Mason Reports in the nineties, to ensure that New Zealanders are able to access the mental health support that they need,” Mr Shaw said. 

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