Mental health services in Aotearoa: A system in constant crisis

This blog post is extracted from a recent editorial of the journal Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work written by Neil Ballantyne and Liz Beddoe. The editorial extract refers to a commentary in the journal by Genevieve Smith and Joanna Appleby.

In their commentary on the “Social work practice implications of upcoming mental health reforms”, Genevieve Smith and Joanna Appleby offer an informative account of the key challenges for mental health services and for people experiencing mental distress in Aotearoa New Zealand. They contextualise their discussion with reference to the impact of four decades of neoliberal reforms on our people and on our health and social services—reforms that have fostered deep economic inequality, racism, precarity and despair in the lives of the many (see, also, the review of Ferguson, 2017 in this issue). These reforms have devastated mental health services through underfunding, service rationing and managerial business models that alienate service users, pressurise frontline workers and fracture service provision. Smith and Appleby explore four challenges faced by those who would reform mental health services: the steady growth in demand for services along with the severity of presenting problems, the failure to maintain or increase the supply of services leading to issues with service accessibility, the postcode lottery of service variability between the 20 District Health Boards, and staff retention and burnout (partly a product of the first two challenges).

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Where there’s smoke there’s fire: The issue of cannabis reform in Aotearoa

A guest post by Suzette Jackson, a Master of Social Work student at the University of Auckland.

The issue of cannabis reform in Aotearoa is incredibly important for us as social workers. It is an issue I have a personal stake in due to my life experience, current studies and place of work. I am an addict and alcoholic in recovery, a Master of Social Work student, a drug and alcohol counsellor, a university tutor, a mother and a grandmother. While I am not an expert on this issue, I am committed to learning about the options we will be asked to vote on in next year’s referendum. Here is my take.

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Putting the psychosocial stamp on policy

A guest post by Carole Adamson, University of Auckland

I’ve just been reflecting about the election and what I know about Jacinda and her new team in the light of my recent visit to Finland. I’ve been having conversations with people about social work’s role in emergency and disaster contexts, being firmly of the belief that the psychosocial response to disasters is what carries people into recovery and wellbeing, and that social work in our country is often under-represented in planning for and responding to disasters.

What I liked about the emergency and social services response in Finland, and what ties it in to the small glow of hope that I have in relation to the change of government in Aotearoa, is that a psychosocial perspective is honoured not only in practice but in policy and legislation.

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Social experiments not the solution for mental health care

This guest blog post is by Mark Henrickson, Shirley Jülich and Ksenija Napan all of whom teach and research in the School of Social Work at Massey University in Auckland.

Over Queen’s Birthday Weekend, the New Zealand public was quietly exposed to the concept of ‘social bonds’. According to the Ministry of Health, social bonds seek private and not-for-profit organisations to partner in order to fund and deliver services to improve social outcomes. If they achieve agreed results, Government will pay the investors back their investment plus a return. According to the Ministry website, this concept has been floating around New Zealand since 2013. The fact that it was announced while we were enjoying our last holiday before Labour Weekend suggests that social bonds is not a flagship programme for this government. We have not seen the full plan. But we are deeply concerned by what we have heard so far.

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