Waikato millennials weigh in on Government's mental health inquiry

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Stuff, 4 June 2018

Too many pills, costly counselling fees and stigma around mental illness - that's all part of the problem, according to millennials weighing in on the Government's mental health inquiry.

Tales and tears were exchanged between young adults when more than 120 young people from around the Waikato turned up to a Mental Health & Addiction Kōrerō run by Seed Waikato.

The feedback will become a formal submission for the Government's ongoing Mental Health Inquiry.

The inquiry was among Labour's first-100-day campaign promises. It is due to report back to Health Minister David Clark by October.

It was important to break the taboo around mental illness, Seed Waikato co-founder Gemma Major said. 

New Zealand is facing a mental health crisis,  said Major, who has experience with addiction among other problems.

More than 16 per cent of Waikato's population is aged 18 to 30, she said.

So it was important that Waikato young adults were involved in the inquiry. 

"This is affecting many in our community, whether that's individually or someone that is part of our whānau."

And it's getting worse. 

"If we look at the attempted suicide phone calls in 2016, there were more than 16,000 of them. 

"So even though we know our youth suicide rate is the worst in the OECD, the attempted suicide rate is increasing."

Adults - particularly men between 20 and 39 - are among the most at risk for suicide in New Zealand. 

Shane Way, a Hamilton well-being coach and personal trainer who helped run the evening, said a lack of holistic wellness and education around mental health had clearly been important to those attending. 

People attending last week's event sat in groups and wrote about their bad and good experiences within the health system, along with key ideas, all on Post-it Notes.

"This is a topic that really touches my heart," Way said at the Tuesday kōrerō. 

"I now work with with patients in the Henry Rongomau Bennett centre where I was actually a patient five years ago when I had a breakdown."

The Post-it Notes will be curated and formally submitted.  

Way, also a mentor for Waikato Queer Youth, said people identifying as gay are five times more likely to attempt suicide. 

Too many people lack any idea where to go for help, Way said. 

"There have been a lot of areas where people have been let down."