Budget 2022: A mixed bag for mental health

Mental health in New Zealand needs bold action and the Budget 2022 was found lacking for those seeking urgent wellbeing support, says NZ Association of Counsellors (NZAC).

The Government’s 2022 Budget saw a pre-announcement of $190 million for a specialist mental health and addiction package.

While the funding boost is a welcome relief, additional funding in earlier intervention and the mild to high field would go a long way to addressing New Zealand’s woeful mental health.

NZAC President Christine Macfarlane says waitlists for mild to high mental health services throughout the country continue to grow, meaning more Kiwis are needlessly suffering through no fault of their own.

“There is a 200-person waitlist at the central Wellington Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. And we know that those services, across the board, are facing a shortage of resources to provide support.

“We also know New Zealanders are increasingly seeking help for their mental health and not receiving any financial aid for it, which can exacerbate their wellbeing issues

“And we are all acutely aware of how the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the issues people are grappling with, from increased suicidal thoughts, and anxiety, to relationship stresses, and addiction.

“So, removing those financial barriers and enabling greater access to free, competent counselling sessions – whether they be provided by qualified counsellors or other suitably qualified mental health professionals – is crucial.”

However, Macfarlane commends the Government’s further commitment to the Māori Health Authority and funding for primary and community care that will help develop specific and equitable care.

“Giving Māori self-determination to address their health and wellbeing needs, through a te ao Māori lens, is a good first step towards minimising re-traumatising people.”