9 May 2017

Mental health review letter signed by over 12,000

5:37 pm on 9 May 2017

An open letter signed by over 12,000 people has been handed over to MPs, calling for an urgent review of the mental health system.

However Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has shut down the idea, saying the group behind the letter, Action Station, is a left-wing anti-government group.

Marianne Elliott and Laura O'Connell Rapira from Action Station.

Laura O'Connell Rapira, left, with a colleague from Action Station at today's event at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron

Last month Action Station released a report containing stories of more than 500 people who have had experience with the mental health system.

A large number of people said they were not getting help soon enough, and were being turned away because they were not unwell enough.

Laura O'Connell handing over the letter and signatures to Peter Dunne.

Ms O'Connell Rapira handing over the letter and signatures to Peter Dunne Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron

Action Station's Laura O'Connell Rapira said it was incredibly important to collate those stories.

"The debate up until this point has been about statistics, and statistics and facts are important, but often what can happen is we just start thinking of these things as numbers on a spreadsheet.

"The powerful thing about the stories as well, is that it activates your empathy and empathy is a really powerful driver of change."

The report made four key recommendations: more money, an urgent inquiry, independent oversight and an education programme.

All of them needed to be implemented, Ms O'Connell Rapira said.

"My concern is that we will chase the quick fix which is urgent funding - and is absolutely needed, but funding alone will not fix this problem.

"That is why an inquiry is needed to work out what the entrenched problems are within our system."

United Future leader Peter Dunne, Labour MP David Clark, Green MP Julie Anne Genter.

United Future leader Peter Dunne, Labour MP David Clark, Green MP Julie Anne Genter Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron

The Labour and Green Parties were on hand to receive the letter and supported the recommendations.

United Future leader Peter Dunne was also there and said he would chat about this to his colleague, Dr Coleman.

"I do think that reports like this are worthy of consideration. It may well be that some of the actions are already in train or can be done a different way, but I think the conversation that's been initiated by this report is worth having."

Dr Coleman said they were already doing a lot on mental health and Action Station had a hidden agenda to change the government.

"They're very left-wing, anti-government protesters. Like I say, Action Station is back on Thursday with another separate anti-government protest in the health area and they could be back week after week with different topics."

However, Ms O'Connell Rapira hit back, saying mental health should not be politicised.

"I think he'd be shocked to learn that several of our members actually are National Party voting members."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs