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Suicide prevention group at Parliament

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/05/2017

A suicide prevention trust says the Government needs to stop "stealing from mental health services to pay for hip and knee replacements" following a Parliamentary select committee hearing on Wednesday.

The Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust presented to the select committee with stories of families affected by suicide.

The Dunedin-based group was set up by Corinda Taylor after what she said was a lack of support following her 20-year-old son Ross's suicide in 2013.

In November, the trust presented a 1740-strong petition to Parliament, asking for an inquiry to determine if current mental health services meet demand.

"When unwell Kiwis reach out for help and are turned away from services, the outcome can be deadly," Ms Taylor said after the committee hearing.

She said mental health funding should be a moral, not a political, issue.

"They [the Government] steal money from mental health to pay for hip and knee replacements.

"Everybody knows there is a lack of beds and a lack of staff, and staff in mental health are burnt out because they're overworked.

"Something has got to give."

Ms Taylor said there is still a stigma around mental health and asking for help, a sentiment echoed by fellow trust member Denise Kent.

"We need to take the mental out of mental health - it is a stigma that won't go away, so the Government needs to get more creative in its thinking towards the issue," Ms Kent said.

Erin Polaczuk, national secretary for the Public Service Association, said mental health needed a major injection of funding and staffing needed to be addressed.

"We hear about people working double shifts and not being able to provide the perfect care that they would like to.

"We can't run a healthcare system on the goodwill of workers."

Ms Polaczuk said recent polling by the PSA and UMR Research showed 60 per cent of New Zealanders did not believe the National Government put enough funding towards mental health.

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