Plea to keep politics out of mental health


Mental health is becoming a political football, a Dunedin mental health advocate says.

Corinda Taylor, of Life Matters, said she was uncomfortable about mental health services becoming election promises.

When the organisation delivered its petition for a mental health review to Parliament last year, it had asked politicians to work across party lines.

“It’s kind of become a political football.”

Yes We Care suicide awareness roadshow organiser Simon Oosterman, who was in Dunedin last week, said his campaign to introduce a national suicide reduction target had “nothing to do with politics” but pointed out all parties except National and Act supported the introduction of a target.

However, those aiming to reduce suicide numbers needed a wider focus, encompassing government agencies, mental health services and the general public, Mr Oosterman said.

Southern District Health Board mental health, addictions and intellectual disability directorate medical director Dr Brad Strong said the SDHB continued to work with regional and national agencies to ensure people could live supported and hopeful lives through the support of health services and the people around them.

“[We are working towards] the day when our suicide rate is the lowest in the OECD.”

He was concerned that the Chief Coroner’s provisional suicide figures, released last week, showed suicides in the Southern district had increased from 43 deaths in 2015-16 to 52 in 2016-17.

The Chief Coroner’s provisional suicide statistics were measured from July 2016 to June 2017.

Mrs Taylor said the increasing number of self-inflicted deaths showed there was a lot of work to do to support suicidal southerners.

“[We need to] sit down and all work together.”

The Shoe Project will arrive in Wellington on Sunday, which is World Suicide Prevention Day, to display the 606 pairs of shoes at Parliament. A service will be held on Sunday at St Paul’s Cathedral in the Octagon at 6pm. Participants are encouraged to wear yellow in support.