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CPAG looks forward to enhanced mental health and addiction services

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidenced-based recommendations to improve the delivery of mental health and addiction services across New Zealand.

“The Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addictions announced in January this year demonstrates the wide agreement that mental health services across the board are in vital need of enhancement and development,” says Professor Innes Asher, CPAG’s health spokesperson.

“In particular increasing the availability and accessibility of services is critical. For children and adolescents, having age-appropriate support services for mental health in environments where they can be accessed freely and confidentially without unnecessary administrative steps will reduce the barrier to seeking and receiving help before troubles escalate,” says Professor Asher.

Contrary to much public discourse, the mental health system in Aotearoa-New Zealand is not ‘broken’ or completely dysfunctional. While there are significant problems, particularly relating to acute secondary care, there is a platform of service provision currently which can be enhanced and developed. This is particularly true of service delivery initiatives that would have an impact on children and families living in poverty.

CPAG says it is vital that this Inquiry addresses child poverty as a preventable cause of mental health problems as evidence shows a strong relationship between child and family poverty and adverse mental health outcomes, which may be life-lasting.

Poverty is particularly damaging for young children from the antenatal period, young adolescents and for children growing up in persistent poverty. Any approach to improving mental health outcomes need a strong focus on reducing poverty and deprivation for pregnant women, young children and their families.

CPAG recommends that the Inquiry consider a twin-track approach to ameliorating the impact of poverty on mental health disorders and outcomes:

  • The Government should implement a comprehensive plan of general measures to reduce child and family poverty. This will reduce economic and other stressors from childhood deprivation, which are factors in the initiation and maintenance of mental health problems.
  • The Government should improve mental health provision and access to health services for all people in Aotearoa-New Zealand, children and adults alike.

    For CPAG’s full list of recommendations, download our submission here.