Top vulnerability for mental health ‘unbudgeted’

By Sky Norm

Most people (and please imagine yourself being in this situation) do not like to ask for help if they feel low, struggling with depression or contemplating suicide. Mental health (MH) is not a taboo topic in New Zealand however we tend to forget how complex it is and how little we really know about it (if not personally affected). In fact, the release of the People’s Mental Health Report  (PMHR) reiterates my concerns of illiteracy and complacency without a fault of our own.

However, a youth with a mental health diagnosis who lives in the system and who waits to find ‘home’ or to be ‘allocated home’ would struggle with life (primarily because coming into care adds its own layer of trauma).  The new Ministry of Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki’s vision: “New Zealand values the wellbeing of tamariki above all else”, scream things will get better. However, recent articles such as teenager in care overdoses after being left at hotel, remind us that things are far from sorted. If only the Ministry of Health would allow for an inquiry to evidence the highlights of our current reality.

For any youth asking for help is hard, especially when the stigma of being a kid in care is attached to your file. When in crisis it is even harder to talk to anyone. You do not have a home or a person you know you can rely on unconditionally. The system is supposed to put you first, yet here you are (again) in the hospital bed, or police custody, at a motel, or in an office waiting for whatever help will be available (if any). There is nowhere you belong, safely, securely, cared for – would you want to live if this was you?

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand defines MH  as

the “capacity to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face, (…) that respects culture, equity, social justice and personal dignity”.

PMHR underlines and demands that some of the basic human rights are actually adhered to: the waiting time to access support and care needs to be shorten, medication should not be a given as the only solution, the lack of resources and limited budget for adequate staff should not be a rhetorical question, and being turned away if not seen as high risk suicide is unacceptable. Is this indifference, incompetence, on lack of humanity?

Like many other social injustices, when it comes to youth in care with a MH diagnosis there are no band aid solutions that can last. The band aid will eventually fall of and we may find an infection to heal. No person should ever be told “go home, you are not sick enough’ – New Zealand, I believe we can do better, but do you agree?

A copy of the People’s Mental Health Report can be read through Action Station.


People’s Mental Health Report –  note: the PDF cannot be linked, however this page offers the background and link to the report itself (Report can only be accessed via this page):

Mental Health Foundation –

Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki –

New Zealand Herald Article –  21 April 2017 ‘Teenager in care overdoses after being left at hotel’.



About socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand
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