Mr Doocey said great progress had been made in changing attitudes to mental health in New Zealand society; a lot of the stigma had been removed.
People are not afraid to ask for help, he said, but when people decide to reach out, “the services aren’t there”.
The health minister focuses on physical health, but a mental health minister would provide “a voice” and has proven effective in Australia, Mr Doocey said.
Ms Swarbrick said the Government needs to “pump a lot of money” into mental health service but also the underlying drivers of poor mental health, such as poverty. It’s frustrating that other parties are not willing to address these problems, she said.
Dr Verrall agreed the social determinants need to be addressed and said her Government has achieved a lot in the mental health space, although there is a lot left to do.
She pointed to the rollout of the Access and Choice Wellbeing Support programme to more than a million people, creating a Māori health authority and banning conversion therapy. This progress would be at risk under a National and ACT Government, Dr Verrall said.
Ms van Velden outlined ACT’s mental health policy – to create a new mental health and addiction agency to oversee the mental health sector and commission services based on data about effectiveness of services.
The proposed agency will be funded by the $2 billion per annum currently spent on mental health through the Ministry of Health and Te Whatu Ora.
The agency also could be paid for from the proceeds of crime, Ms van Velden said. Dr Verrall said the proceeds from that fund were small in the context of the Government’s total spend on health.
ACT has proposed tax cuts but Ms van Velden said the party has “never said we will cut health”.
She refused to say whether she agreed poverty is a major driver of poor mental health, instead saying mental health issues are caused by a range of factors; different people have different levels of resilience. The latter comment was not well received by the audience.