Mental health inquiry outcomes disappoint Maori health providers 


5 December 2018

Leading Maori suicide prevention advocate Michael Ngaera says the government's team set up to implement recommendations from its mental health inquiry are "bureaucrats".

Launched on 23 January 2018, the inquiry was said by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to be “a major step towards improving mental health and addiction services:

The inquiry held meetings throughout the country, including in Rotorua, where people responded by opening up about their personal experiences as well as professional opinion regarding the system.

A major thrust of the meetings, particularly in the regions, was how those involved felt mental health services were failing Maori.

Michael Ngaera, who has been at the forefront of many of the issues through his work at Te Runanga O Ngati Pikiao in Rotorua, has raised questions about the members of a a body set up to guide the process forward.

Ngaera says he respects members of the new body as individuals.

“But as most are bureaucrats from government-funded departments, I have little confidence in their ability to include Maori, mental health consumers and youth across the sector.”

Including these groups in a such a body was essential to ensure that mental health and addiction services were consumer friendly, he said.

Ngaera, who is a suicide prevention leader, says the report fails to take into consideration the diversity and demographics of New Zealanders, including Maori, youth and mental health consumers.

Referring to recommendations for the development of national suicide prevention strategy, and the setting up of a Ministry for Maori, Ngaera says this is a one-size fits all approach.

“Unless Maori are at the forefront of change, then we will fail to see that change.”

The government inquiry had been present with a National Maori Strategy for Addressing Suicide when it held the Rotorua hearing.  The national iwi leaders’ forum had endorsed the policy, along with the Kingitanga and Maori health specialists and academics nationally.

He questioned why this was not adopted as part of the new strategy. The government’s analysis of the reported need to be view through an equity lens and not a need to consult that produces outcome unsuited to Maori.

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