‘White supremacist’ to stay in prison for now

A warning two days ago:  Grandfather believes grandson may kill if released

“It’s merely a matter of time before he kills somebody.”

That’s the opinion of the grandfather of 22-year-old drug and alcohol addicted Frank Finch who was due to be released from custody this Friday.

His grandfather, Rod Finch, is pleading with agencies to deliver a secure release and rehabilitation plan which will keep both Finch, who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, and the public safe.

The call for urgency was further prompted by threats Finch allegedly made in prison, as well as a chilling two-page letter Finch’s grandfather says the young man sent to him after the Christchurch mosque attacks, in which he allegedly applauded the alleged gunman.

“He’s been on marijuana since he was about 10 years old, drinking and then harder drugs like P as he got older.” He was diagnosed with schizophrenia two years ago. “When he’s dry, he’s a loving, caring and highly intelligent young man, but nowadays it’s very rare to get him sober,” his grandfather said.

In 2015, Finch was imprisoned for three years on a raft of offences, including house burglaries, stealing electronics from Christchurch High Schools, and drive-off petrol thefts.

“You are 17 years old but you have the criminal history and actions of a much older man. You behave like a child. You have a lot of growing up to do,” the judge said at the time.

Last December, Finch was fresh out of prison when he was the passenger of a stolen car that crashed following a police pursuit. Finch was the sole survivor of the crash, which killed two others.

He is currently behind bars for breaching his court release conditions, but it was possible he’d be released at sentencing on Friday, a prospect which his grandfather feared.

For now Man described as dangerous white supremacist to remain in jail

Frank Finch, 22, will be imprisoned for crimes including theft and unlawfully getting into a motor vehicle, but the police have also laid an additional charge of threatening to kill, for which he appeared in the afternoon and will enter pleas on next month.

Citing psychiatric reports, Judge Anthony Couch said Finch clearly had no remorse and was likely to reoffend if released.

“The conclusion of the psychiatrist is that you lack motivation to make meaningful change in your life or to take any steps to avoid further offending. The psychiatrist also complains that you didn’t need extensive and long term support in a highly structured environment to gain the skills to even consider pursuing a viable life outside of prison,” he said.

Finch’s lawyer Allister Davis had asked for a sentence of intensive supervision, and speaking after the sentencing, he said the jail term was a missed opportunity.

“But that opportunity may arise again in the future. At the moment, we’ve got a young man with some pretty serious psychological problems and issues that’s in jail. I don’t believe that it’s helping him at all, but he’s done the crime has got to do the time I suppose,” he said.

At his second appearance this afternoon, Frank Finch was remanded in custody, and in three weeks he is expected to enter a plea.

It seems likely others will be pleading he  remains in prison and gets treatment. He seems to be obviously suffering from mental illness, but is also obviously potentially dangerous.

Fortunately there has been an overdue boost in funding for mental health treatment in this week’s budget, including:

Initiatives – Supporting mental health within the justice sector

Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court: Operational Support 2019/20

$0.7 million operating
This initiative funds the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODT Court) so it will continue operating with dedicated police prosecutors, court co-ordinators and lawyer team leaders at the two pilot sites (Auckland and Waitakere) until it ends on 30 June 2020.

Increasing Access to Mental Health and Addiction Support

$124.4 million operating
$3.9 million capital

This initiative is part of the Budget package supporting the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata – Safe and Effective Justice programme. This will improve the health, wellbeing and quality of life of vulnerable people in Corrections’ care by providing funding for mental health and addiction interventions.

This may or may not be enough or the right sort of help for people like Birch, but it is an attempt to address entrenched problems.

Gumboot Friday a worthy cause

New Zealander of the Year and youth suicide campaigner Mike King wants everyone to wear gumboots on Friday and give a gold coin donation, hoping to raise $2 million towards helping youth to access counselling. It’s a shame that fundraising is required for this, but it’s a worthy cause.

I will be donating, but won’t be wearing my gumboots.

On Friday Mike King will be wearing gumboots, regardless of the weather.

The Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year hopes the rest of New Zealand will join him and donate gold coins. Gumboot Friday aims to raise $2 million towards helping youth to access counselling.

Wearing gumboots is based on the idea that living with depression is like trying to walk through mud every day. It is a sign to those who do struggle with depression that you are thinking about them.

I don’t figuratively or literally walk through mud, but my gumboots are one of my most used pair of footwear – but, well worn, dirty and covered in spray dye, they’re not appropriate for my inside day job.

Last year 137 young New Zealanders took their own lives. Ministry of Health data released last year showed 16,848 young people sought help with their mental health between April 2017 and March 2018. Some are seen by mental health professionals within three weeks, but for others the wait was much longer.

More than 1500 young people waited longer than two months just to get a first appointment with a counsellor.

That’s a terrible situation.

The previous National government talked about social investment – funding measures up front that would reduce problems and costs down the track – but never got that far down the track of implementing it.

Labour talked up a crisis in mental health when campaigning in 2017, set up (another) mental health inquiry when taking over Government later that year, but despite that inquiry reporting back last year they are still not doing a lot to address  the urgent underfunded issues.

Ministers of Health have an unenviable task of allocating available funding, but the current Minister David Clark has been very disappointing so far.

But maybe we expect the Government to do too much, which results in disappointment.

Comedian turned mental health advocate Mike King spent 2018 touring the country, speaking with groups about mental health. Through the work he is doing with the Key To Life Charitable Trust and being open about his own struggles he’s had frank conversations with children and parents.

He’s seen a gap in services.

“Currently the wait times for funded care can be anywhere between six weeks and a year. If you’ve got a child with an eating disorder, you will not get to see someone inside a year.”

The money raised on Gumboot Friday will get young people appointments with private counselling professionals to speed access to care.

“Instead of bleating about what the Government’s doing and whatever else is doing, we just said, ‘What are we doing?’ How can we help our Government, how can we help our health system and the best way we can help is to provide funds for private care.”

A Labour Government and a Labour Minister are leaving it private health care.

Since then the I AM HOPE social media profile frame promoting Gumboot Day has been added to more than 500,000 profile pictures and Kiwibank has donated $100,000 to the Gumboot Friday account along with a contribution from I AM HOPE and donations from other corporates and individuals.

King describes the Gumboot Friday system as a no-fuss way to help children access counselling.

“There are no hoops to jump through. Go as many times as you want because there is no limit. When the money runs out, that’s the limit.”

It’s not going to be a sombre day spent in red bands though. The idea of fun is central to the fundraising effort.

“I want kids to know that we’re having fun while doing something good for them. It’s part of this whole de-stigmatising process that we’re going through. The problem’s always going to be there, but we have to change the way we look at it.”

Maybe I should wear my gumboots after all – I can leave them in the foyer of the building I work in and take some inside shoes with me.

King’s previously bleak view of New Zealand’s approach to mental health has changed.

“I think we are turning a corner.”

He’s spent much of the past few years on the road talking with people and in the past 12 months has seen a shift in attitudes.

“There is a real change happening, particularly in blue collar. That sector of society that we say is the staunchest, they’ve shifted. One of the most common things these people say to me after the show is, ‘Bro, you just told my story up there. I’m going home to talk to my kids.’ And that’s really lifted me.

“Definitely yes, there is change happening. Yes, it is really, really positive and long may it continue.”

A comedian is doing what health professionals and politicians were failing on.

King talks of people’s “inner critic” which he describes as the negative voice inside your head. His message to parents is that their children want them to be honest and open about emotions instead of trying to control them.

“We need to really normalise it. That everyone has doubts and fears that everyone has an inner critic. Mums and dads need to understand that by not showing that vulnerability, by not sharing their doubts and fears with their kids, all they’re doing is growing their child’s inner critic.”

The ‘strong silent’ Kiwi male thing has been a failure in many ways.

When he shared his own struggles with school children, he said their “masks” dropped and they opened up in ways they may not have with their parents.

“Our kids dumb themselves down to talk to us. Nine out of 10 times they will just give you the answer they think you want to hear.

“There is so much hope there. The only thing that’s stopping that struggle is my generation. We have to change.”

Some have already talked about their struggles with mental health here on Your NZ. perhaps we should look at ways of doing more of that sort of discussion, and not just on Friday.

JLR, the media and a difficult mental health question

There have been a number of puzzling aspects about how the health of Jami-Lee Ross has played out in public. One obvious one is that it has played out in public as it has – Ross has come newsworthiness as an MP, but people with mental health problems tend to deal with them as privately as possible. Ross is not the first MP to have mental health problems they have had to deal with, it is a very stressful environment to work in.

The media have reported on this as they should, and I’m aware of the trickiness of reporting on someone’s mental health, especially when attempted suicide is mentioned. But I am surprised how they have done it unquestioningly. They seem to have taken Ross’ word for how things happened and how it affected him.

And I was surprised to see media (2) jump in with coverage of a Ross tweet on Saturday where Ross replied to a tweet from Bridges, saying “Are you sure you’re the right person to be criticising others on the topic of mental health??”

Stuff: Jami-Lee Ross takes Simon Bridges to task over mental health tweet

Newshub: Jami-Lee Ross rips into Simon Bridges in mental health tweet

One could easily assume that this is exactly the sort of publicity that Ross was aiming for – helping him attack his former parliamentary colleague and leader, despite Ross claiming some time ago that he bore no grudges.

Stuff went to Ross for further comment:

Ross told Stuff on Saturday afternoon he would be using his platform as an independent MP to “raise issues which are important”.

“Mental health services in New Zealand urgently need more funding,” he said.

“The government Simon and I were part of let the sector down and let the system reach crisis point.

“We now owe it to patients and mental health practitioners to work with the government constructively.”

I think this raises an important issue – how much should the media assist Ross with publicity?

And a more important one – should they do this without scrutinising Ross and his mental health claims. Ross chose to go public on mental health, and he continues to use mental health as a way of criticising his former leader and party.

While the media seems to have avoided questioning Ross’s mental health claims, some questions have been raised at Kiwiblog before now, and again yesterday.

I’m happy to take the downticks but I call “bullshit” on jlr’s “mental illness”.

I am not “mental health expert” but have had a couple of mates over the years suffer from a mental issue and a couple of my eldest’s school friend as well. Some involving committal and if that tosser claims he was “committed” then released after 24 hours then he’s full of shit. Plus, it was over a weekend so there would have been less “professionals” on duty to assess, commit and release.

I wondered at the time about how quickly Ross was released from care after he was committed after claiming to have attempted suicide. It had seemed like a very rapid recovery. And it was followed by a sustained attack on Bridges, Paula Bennett and National – that seemed an unusual thing to happen when someone was suffering from a severe mental health problem.

And:

My mental health meltdown happened in early November 2017, and I have only returned to work on a part-time basis since December 2018. Unsurprisingly, I am sceptical about how quickly Ross has supposedly recovered.

I can understand that media would be cautious about what they report on with Ross for fear of precipitating mental health problems, especially with talk of suicide in the mix.

I find it more difficult to understand some media giving Ross publicity in his ongoing attacks, without looking further into what Ross has claimed.

For example, is Ross the right person to be criticising others on the topic of mental health? And is it fair for him to use his mental health issues as a weapon against others? Bridges has vowed not to respond to Ross’ ongoing taunts, which is wise, as he would be at risk of Ross using that against him as he has done with other things.

Cameron Slater was going hard out on Whale Oil presumably on behalf of Ross attacking Bridges and Bennett and National until Slater had his own serious health problem.

While Slater is no longer posting at Whale Oil it was perhaps of interest to see Juana Atkins post yesterday, ironically What a tangled web we weave, applauding the media attention given to Ross.

If Simon Bridges thinks that the Jami-Lee Ross and Sarah Dowie story is going to go away he is wrong. The media are not going to let it go away.

He told the caucus on Thursday that what Jami-Lee Ross said about his staff member being put up to talking to the media by Deputy leader Paula Bennett was all BS. He clearly hasn’t considered the possibility that Jami-Lee Ross may have taken very, very detailed notes. If he keeps repeating that assertion, he may live to regret it.

This is similar to claims and threats that Slater had been making. Slater has a history of making claims and insinuations of having damning evidence, but failing to front up with any evidence.  A trick he shared with Winston Peters was attacking people and making insinuations, and trying too get the media to find the evidence they claimed to have.

A smart journalist would hound Paula Bennett until she says again that she had no involvement in setting up the Newsroom hit job on Jami-Lee Ross. Her continued lying is going to get her and Bridges into an awful bind that will likely cost them their jobs when the truth finally comes out.

Smart journalists should be very sceptical about encouragement to take particular lines of inquiry in this.

Smart journalists should have been asking why Slater and Whale Oil and Atkins have been either working with or using Ross so much in their joint attacks on National.

And I think it would be fair for smart journalists to be asking about the actual mental health situation with Ross.  So far Ross has been able to dish out free shots with the willing help of some media.

Ross has chosen to continue to go public using mental health as a political weapon. This deserves further scrutiny.

Something else that deserves further scrutiny (from Kiwiblog comments):

peterwn:

Interesting, Jami effectively has a ‘hot line’ to the media via his Twitter account since various journos ‘follow’ him. What do you have to do to get a similar ‘hot line’ to the media

Keeping Stock:

I suspect the “hotline” is not so much from Ross as from one of the people who is “advising” him.

And speaking of Ross; is there any truth in the allegation he had an extra-marital relationship with a journalist, and if so, isn’t it as much in the public interest for the journalist to be named as it was to name Sarah Dowie?

This is pertinent given that journalists have aided Ross with his attacks and claims from the start of this with the reporting of the leaking of Bridges’ expenses.

Journalists are still helping Ross with his attacks.

It’s not just Ross’ mental health that they are not questioning. It is also the complicity in Ross’ affairs of at least one person in their own ranks that they are sweeping under the carpet.

Mental health crisis -> 1 working group -> 9 working groups

Before the election Labour said there was a crisis in mental health care.

Once in Government they set up a working group to find out if there was a crisis

400 meetings across New Zealand, 5,000 submissions and a year later the working group handed a 200 page report to the Government, who said it would take a few months to respond.

Now 9 working groups have been set up to respond to the 9 ‘themes’ of the first working group.

RNZ:  Mental health working group replacement criticised

Robyn Shearer, deputy director general of mental health and addiction, said the Mental Health and Addiction Health Sector Leadership Group (HSLG) was put on hold following criticism of its make-up.

“As the ministry has adopted the hub and spoke model, the group will cease in its role.”

The hub and spoke model – which has one central hub, co-ordinated by the Ministry of Health, and nine “spokes” based on key inquiry recommendations – was first proposed in a 14 December email.

The structure was to be co-ordinated by a small co-ordination group, covering lived experience, family-whānau, Māori, Pasifika, NGOs, primary health organisations, and a DHB representative.

“This structure would also include nine working groups, dedicated to responding to each of the Inquiry report’s themes,” acting deputy director general of mental health and addiction Maree Roberts in a December said in an email to stakeholders.

The mental health inquiry hub and spoke model (source: December email to stakeholders from Ministry of Health)

The groups would “be responsible not only for feeding into advice to government, but for providing leadership and advice on implementation of changes and improvements across the health and social system”.

The email reminded readers that the government would formally respond to the inquiry in March 2019 and that the Ministry of Health was working to provide advice.

Ms Shearer, who has recently joined the Ministry of Health, said the leadership group was initially created to help the Ministry interact with key stakeholders.

“It was never intended to be the ministry’s main mechanism for feedback following the Inquiry’s report.

“The group’s primary role in this time was to assist the ministry in planning its engagement approach following the inquiry’s release.”

However, the December email from Ms Roberts outlining the group’s approach showed the it had a significant role in gathering feedback.

The first phase was to seek feedback and inform government.

The email suggested hosting small workshops with the public.

This sounds like repeating the same thing again, albeit fragmented into different groups.

Not surprisingly there have been eyebrows raised.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson raised concerns.

“Part of our feedback was you have to be really clear what it is you’re asking people, otherwise this could look like the inquiry is just carrying on. When do we stop talking and start doing?

“I kind of thought, ‘Well, you know, I did tell you!’ So it didn’t surprise me at all when they said they were going back to the drawing board.”

It did not adequately represent Māori and people who lived with mental health, he said.

Mr Robinson said the ministry made a few mistakes in the first steps because they “literally did not have the people”.

There was also confusion among those in the mental health sector about why the government needed to seek more answers when that was the whole purpose of the inquiry.

“But there are some pretty significant and far-reaching changes suggested in the inquiry report. If you want to really make those happen, you have to be quite careful.”

one thing the need to be careful about is spending too much time and money working in groups and inquiring,

 

Government and Opposition on fixing the mental health crisis

It has long been known that mental health was being inadequately addressed by governments. It could be claimed (and is) that all health is inadequately funded, but mental health is a special case, and has been since the large mental health institutions were emptied and closed in the 1970s and 1980s. Community care was seen as a better option, but it has never really been done properly, at great human, family and community cost.

The last National government did the usual inquiries and came up with a plan late in their tenure, but the incoming Labour-led government scrapped that and went back to the drawing board – another inquiry. A year on they have just announced a plan that will still take some time to implement.

Labour’s health spokesperson Annette King on  21 February 2017 Kids suffering under mental health strain

A newly released report from the Ministry of Health on the mental health and addictions workforce shows a worryingly large vacancy rate in child and youth mental health services, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King.

“The Mental Health and Addiction Workforce Action Plan 2017-2021 shows a whopping eight per cent vacancy rate in infant, child and adolescent mental health and alcohol and other drug services, the estimated equivalent of 141 full time positions unfilled.

“Every week we hear of failings in our mental health system from deaths in care, patient attacks, overstretched counselling services and crisis teams, with staff working more than 60 hours a week.

“The Government needs to do more than look at staff per 100,000 population, they need to look at how many staff are needed to meet demand and fund mental health properly.”

“A Labour Government will review mental health services…

King cited specific problems from a Ministry report but called for a review. Jacinda Ardern commented on it  on Facebook:

I find this staggering. There is such a huge demand for services and yet the vacancy rate for Child and Youth Mental Health Services is equivalent to an estimated 141 full time positions.

Mental health services have come up A LOT during this campaign, and for good reason. It’s time to review mental health services…

I find the call for reviews staggering, although one person (Liam McConnell-Whiting) laauded her words:

Yes Omg yes! Jacinda you speak the speak! NZs history of ignoring mental health issues, primary and secondary to other (better funded) health issues is a phenomenal shame.
Love to see you identifying this!!!

September 2017: What Labour promised, but will they deliver?

Labour promised to increase resourcing for frontline health workers, put nurses in all high schools and conduct a review of the mental health system in their first 100 days. It would put mental health workers in schools affected by Canterbury earthquakes and target suicide prevention funding into mainstream and rainbow community support organisations.

Labour would put $193m over three years into mental health, on top of the Government’s increase announced in the budget. It would conduct a two-year pilot programme placing mental health teams at eight sites – such as GPs – across the country. The programme would offer free crisis help for people.

A number of specific plans.

And Labour put together a government. Mental health was listed as a priority in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

16. Ensure everyone has access to timely and high quality mental health services, including free
counselling for those under 25 years.

There was a minor mention in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

Re-establish the Mental Health Commission

In Taking action in our first 100 days Labour implied urgency saying they will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis

So they referred to it as a crisis, but chose an inquiry that has taken a year. On 4 December 2018: Mental Health and Addiction report charts new direction

Health Minister Dr David Clark says the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink how we handle some of the biggest challenges we face as a country.

The Government has today publicly released the report of the Inquiry in full, less than a week after receiving it.

“It is clear we need to do more to support people as they deal with these issues – and do a lot more to intervene earlier and support wellbeing in our communities.

That has been clear for a long time.

“We are working our way carefully through the 40 recommendations and will formally respond in March. I want to be upfront with the public, however, that many of the issues we’re facing, such as workforce shortages, will take years to fix.

‘Fixing’ mental health care will always be an ongoing challenge, but there is a lack of urgency here.

“Reshaping our approach to mental health and addiction is no small task and will take some time. But I’m confident this report points us in the right direction, and today marks the start of real change for the better,” David Clark says.

“Today marks the start of real change for the better” is a nonsense statement, and will sound hollow to those who have been struggling with mental health for a along time, for some people a lifetime.

Two MPs, one from National and one from Labour, comment on progress in Virtue signalling or concrete action on mental health crisis?

Stuart Smith (National MP for Kaikoura):

Eighteen months ago, we established a $100 million fund to support mental health, which the current government duly scrapped after the election.

They then set about reinventing the wheel by launching their own inquiry into mental health and addiction services which, a full year later, supports the very initiatives that we had already identified for targeted funding.

The Prime Minister chose not to keep these initiatives in place, yet at the same time wanted a zero tolerance on suicides, a goal she has now shifted to a percentage reduction of 20 per cent by 2030.

This is nothing short of virtue signalling, and that is incredibly irresponsible. What we need at this time is action, and instead this government cut programmes, then spent a year coming to the conclusion that those programmes were exactly what the mental health system needed.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan (​Labour List MP based in Auckland’s Maungakiekie):

Over the last nine years, demand for mental health services increased by 60 per cent – but funding for these services did not increase by even half that.

Fixing the mental health system is a priority for this government – and it can be done. It requires commitment to understand the problems and implement sustainable solutions – and time. Almost a decade of underfunding and neglect cannot be turned around in one Budget.

The Prime Minister has spoken about her personal commitment to addressing it. The Finance Minister has signalled that it will be a priority in our first wellbeing Budget in 2019. So how are we tracking?

The Government committed to an inquiry into mental health and addiction services in its first hundred days. The report from that inquiry has just been completed and released and the Government will respond formally in March. This response will be a considered one that focuses on long-term, sustainable change rather than political expediency.

In the meantime, the government has committed an extra $200 million to district health board mental health services over the next four years. Low-decile schools, especially those affected by earthquakes, will be better resourced to assist children who may need support. It’s now cheaper for 540,000 New Zealanders on modest incomes to see a doctor, and free for children under 14. A pilot programme that will provide free counselling for 18 to 25 year olds is being developed. Our mental health and addiction support workers – 5000 of them – have been included in the Care and Support Workers Pay Equity Settlement. I’m proud to be supporting a government that cares enough to act.

Finally, as we work to fix the mental health crisis, we must remember that one size does not fit all.

As we work to fix the mental health crisis, we must make sure that we fix it for all New Zealanders.

Not all New Zealanders need mental health assistance. Some measures have been implemented, but after a year in Government it is warned that it will time to fix but is still being referred to as a crisis.

We will find out next March – 18 months after the election – what the Labour-led government plan to do to fix the mental health crisis.

Mental health discrimination or prudence in job applications?

It’s reasonable to expect that employers check properly whether job applicants are suitable candidates for the position. It’s also reasonable to expect job applications to not be too intrusive on a personal level.

Should an employer be able to find out whether an applicant is suffering from mental illness, being treated for mental illness or taking medication to treat mental illness?

RNZ: Job applicants face mental health discrimination – Greens

A Green Party investigation has concluded that there appears to be widespread discrimination against job applicants with mental health issues.

The investigation was launched after Green Party spokesperson for mental health Chloe Swarbrick held hui at eight universities across the country to better understand the mental health challenges facing young people.

It was during these hui that Ms Swarbrick said she was surprised to find out from people that they were being expected to disclose their mental health history on job applications so she launched an investigation.

“[We] heard some pretty harrowing and stressful stories – a number of people who were being required to offer up an entire shopping list of the medication that they’re on, other people who believe that they had been prejudiced from the job application process and denied the opportunity to prove their skill set.”

A number of the 59 submitters expressed concerns about what their mental health or medication information would be used for.

“What was highlighted was the number of people who weren’t given clarity around what that information was going to be used for but also, I think what people have to realise is that in a job application process there is a massive power imbalance.

“So when somebody is put in a position where they are being expected to disclose things and may not actually know their rights, that’s a really problematic situation for them to be put in.”

Perhaps that could be addressed by notifying applications of their rights in advance.

The investigation also highlighted that a number of large companies including Wishbone, Coca-Cola, Air New Zealand, New World, Countdown and PWC appeared to be avoiding hiring people with anxiety and depression.

“Rather than reinforcing a culture of stigma and fear around mental health, employers should be providing supportive workplaces and promotion well-being.”

Of course employers should provide supportive workplaces. The well-being of employees has an impact on the well-being of a business.

But employers should be able to consider whether a degree of anxiety or depression was a potential problem in someone being capable of doing a reasonable job.

Mental ‘illness’ can range from minor (and inconsequential in employment) to severe and a major risk.

We all probably suffer from some sort of mental problems at some stage of our lives – degrees of depression can vary a lot, relationship issues, stress (from work or home) can all affect just about anyone.

We already have a situation where discrimination in job applications is not allowed legally – for example on gender, age, race, religion.

But what this means in practice is that employers just have to be careful in what reasons they give for not choosing an applicant – bland ‘someone else was more suitable’ explanations are safe. Saying ‘your age of seventy five, and wanting six months off to go to China for a sex change, skin lightening and hair transplant operations as soon as your probation office and your psychiatrist allows’ risks a complaint of discrimination.

It is difficult to say how much an employer has a right to know about job applicants.

It could also be difficult in differentiating between discrimination and prudence in checking out the suitability of job applicants.

 

Mental Health Inquiry report being released today

RNZ:  Govt to release Mental Health Inquiry report today

The panel, led by the former health watchdog Ron Paterson, has spent roughly 10 months consulting people around the country, holding more than 400 meetings and considering about 5000 submissions.

It delivered a 200 page report and 40 recommendations to the Health Minister David Clark last week.

The government will release the report today, but will not formally respond with its plan until March.

Dr Clark has said the inquiry will shape the country’s response to mental health for years to come.

There is pressure on the Government to act quickly with claims that current mental health care is in crisis.

Like:  Teens face up to three month wait for mental health services

Teens needing non-urgent mental health services in the top of the south currently face a wait of up to three months before they are seen.

There had been five resignations in CAMHS team across the district in the past six months and there were three vacancies.

Working in mental health care is very demanding.

The Inquiry website:  Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction

Our purpose was to identify unmet needs and develop recommendations for a better mental health and addiction system for Aotearoa New Zealand.

We wanted to set a clear direction for the next five to ten years that Government, the mental health and addiction sectors and the whole community can pick up and make happen.

On 28 November 2018, we presented He Ara Oranga : report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction to the Government.

The Government has indicated it needs time to consider the report’s findings, but expects to release the report prior to the end of the year.

Once the report has been released it will be available on this website in various formats.

That should be today.

 

Jami-Lee Ross ‘improving’, uncertainty over future

Jami-Lee Ross is said to be improving after surviving a “very real situation” on Saturday night and being sectioned and admitted in mental health care, but it will likely take time to find out what impact this will have on his future as a now independent electorate MP after the National caucus ejected him last week.

The Mental health Foundation is disappointed in how Ross’ mental health situation has been described and discussed in media including social media, and says it is necessary to separate political decisions from mental health problems – but this may not be simple given that Ross’ political decisions have been obviously influenced by his mental health situation.

NZ Herald – Jami-Lee Ross improving, getting the mental health help he needs – friend

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross is improving but remains in the mental health wing at Middlemore Hospital, after surviving a “very real situation” on Saturday night, a friend says.

Concern for Ross’ health has amplified since he was picked up by police on Sunday and sectioned to a mental health facility.

“He’s a bit rough at the moment, but getting the help he needs. He’s in good care. Staff are wonderful,” said the friend, who did not want to be named.

“This was definitely not attention-seeking. It was a very real situation he was in on Saturday night,” the friend added.

It could take some time before we know what will happen from here.

Ross will continue to hold the seat of Botany unless he resigns, National leader Simon Bridges uses the waka-jumping law (a process that takes at least 21 working days), or Ross is deemed unfit due to mental health reasons (a process that takes at least six months).

The friend said there had been no discussion about whether he might resign, as Ross had “more important things” to think about at this stage.

Following Ross’ admission to hospital, several steps need to occur before Speaker Trevor Mallard would be notified that an MP was the subject of a compulsory treatment order.

Mallard said he had not received any such notice, but constitutional lawyer Graeme Edgeler said informing the Speaker was the last step in a process that could take weeks.

It was standard practice to take five days to make a mental health assessment, Edgeler said.

“But if the five days isn’t enough, it can be extended to 14 days. If those have happened and they still wish to compulsorily treat someone, they then ask a Family Court judge.

“If the judge makes a compulsory treatment order or an equivalent order, at that point the court notifies the Speaker.

“It would be exceedingly unlikely for a court to be involved at this early stage.”

If the court issued a compulsory treatment order, the Speaker would then ask the Director-General of Health and a medical practitioner to assess if the MP was considered “mentally disordered”.

If so, a further assessment would follow six months later. If the patient was still unwell, the Speaker would be obliged to inform the House and vacate the MP’s seat, triggering a by-election.

So unless Ross resigns the uncertainty looks like extending well into next year.

Early last week Ross said he intended resigning from Parliament on Friday, but on Friday he said he had changed his mind and would remain in Parliament.

It’s hard to see how Ross could function effectively now as an electorate MP, and he is likely to have lost a lot of support in Botany. Even if he recovers mental health-wise he would also have difficulty operating alone and discredited in Parliament.

Also uncertain is whether Ross will resume his threatened attacks on National and whether he will try to ‘uncover the bed sheets’ in Parliament. He seems to be confusing consensual promiscuity, which appears to be common amongst some MPs and associated staff and journalists, and the harassment and abuses of power that he has been accused of.

Cameron Slater, who has been giving mixed messages about his involvement with Ross before he was committed to a health facility, has threatened a number of times over the weekend to reveal some sort of information – “Just wait and watch what happens this week.”

One might think both Ross and Slater have enough problems to deal with already without lashing out further – they both may have little more to lose politically given how toxic and isolated they have both become, but as has been demonstrated in the weekend they are at personal risk from the pressures they create for themselves.

 

MPs and mental health

Mental health in Parliament was raised an an issue recently when the leaker of Simon Bridges expenses claimed to be at risk if the inquiry continued, but it is not a new issue.

Newsroom recounts in Where is politics’ John Kirwan?

The topic of mental health has been highly politicised in recent years, and is currently the subject of an inquiry, but the country’s decision-makers still face immense stigma from the public, the media and each other when it comes to their own mental health.

Last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke about her anxiety in media interviews, and some members of the public cited this as an argument against her taking on the role of prime minister.

Earlier this month, National Party MP Nick Smith was yet again the target of personal attacks implying he had mental health issues, with Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi referring to Smith’s “medication” in an interjection in the House.

Smith took stress leave in 2004 but says he has never experienced mental health issues or taken medication. Regardless, politicians – including now Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard – have used the subject of mental health as a way to personally attack Smith in the House over a number of years.

Not good when mental health is used as a political weapon. Smith was suggested by some as a potential leaker simply due to his past publicly acknowledged stress.

Being an MP is inherently stressful. It involves big responsibilities, long hours, a lot of travel, and the ever hovering chance of unflattering and exposing media attention.

Labour Party senior whip Ruth Dyson says like many other jobs, aspects of being an MP are stressful. Being away from home three days a week takes the biggest toll.

First term Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has proven to be thoughtful, responsible and willing to address issues that other MPs avoid, without being an attention seeker. She earns credit.

And she has been prepared to talk openly about mental health issues.

Only a handful of politicians have spoken openly about their mental health, including Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick and former Green MP Holly Walker, but it’s a small group. And it’s not surprising given the type of reaction, and questions, which follow these disclosures.

Swarbrick has talked about living with depression and anxiety but says sharing her story wasn’t easy.

“It’s scary. Being honest about any facet of yourself, that isn’t necessarily socially acceptable – or where there isn’t a defined pathway in terms of how you declare, or how people react – it’s not a comfortable thing, so you take a risk.

“You always take a risk by being open, transparent, and vulnerable.”

Doing something that isn’t anticipated, or isn’t part of the norm, requires explanation, but politicians live in a world where the common refrain is “explaining is losing”, she says.

Swarbrick doesn’t believe MPs should have to put their entire personal life on the table for people to pick apart, “especially when we still have a culture that stigmatises that kind of stuff”. But politicians do have a responsibility to represent themselves with all their flaws. And Swarbrick says her mental health isn’t something she’s ever sought to hide.

But it is incumbent on politicians to not continue fronting with a façade, where people have a disdain for that kind of politics.

“People want genuine engagement, and that looks like taking off the cloak of impenetrability, and having humanity.”

Swarbrick says the worst environment for disparaging comments are in the House, late at night.

“To be perfectly honest, those issues that are being joked and jested about, actually probably affect a whole bunch of people in these buildings, because there’s such an intensive work environment.”

Being open and talking about mental health is risky for an MP, but it will help normalise something that virtually all of us have to contend with to varying degrees.

In order to improve New Zealand’s mental health situation, systemic changes are needed to make it easier for people to access effective services, but there’s also a need for a societal change, she says.

Robinson says that change could start in the halls of power, and MPs should be modelling non-stigmatising behaviour for the rest of the country.

MPs should be modelling a range of behaviours and set an example to the rest of the country. This will be radical for some old school attrition orientated politicians, but with a new type of MP gradually taking over this can improve.

Bridges leak saga continues

It is amazing to see how the leak a few days early of Simon Bridges’ expenses has become such a big and persistent story.

Newshub (Tova O’Brien) kicked the story off, framing it as a big scandal of overspending. But it has become more a scandal of leaks, and now of why the Speaker Trevor Mallard suddenly called of a planned inquiry, why he involved Jacinda Ardern, and why Bridges and National are being so persistent in pushing for a resolution.

Last Friday O’Brien became strangely indignant that RNZ gave the story new legs, ironically citing concern over the welfare of the leaker her provided her with the story she broke, but Newshub have now given the story another nudge (but via Jenna Lynch): Simon Bridges still unconvinced expenses leaker is a National MP

The National party will launch its own secret internal investigation into who leaked Simon Bridges travel expenses.

On Friday, Speaker Trevor Mallard ditched his inquiry, telling National it was an internal matter for them to sort out.

Even though most signs point to the leaker being a National MP, Mr Bridges still isn’t convinced.

Newshub must know who the leaker is. O’Brien must know at least. They quote Bridges:

“I will do my best and the National Party is united in doing its best to get to the bottom of who the leaker is”

The text – which was sent days earlier to Mr Bridges, Mr Mallard and Newshub – asked for the inquiry to be abandoned, citing ongoing mental health issues.

The leaker’s text provided three specific details of closed-door National Party caucus meetings, yet Mr Bridges remains stuck on the idea the leaker came from outside his party.

“It may not be a National MP or a National Party staffer,” he says.

That doesn’t sound “stuck on the idea the leaker came from outside his party”.

Ardern: “This is a matter for the National Party”.

Bridges: “Well why, on what evidence, on what basis does she say that?”

A fair question. Why does Ardern know with certainty it’s a matter for only the National Party?

Newshub: “Despite the leaker’s text providing specific details of closed door National Party caucus meetings, Bridges isn’t convinced.

Newshub displayed what looks like a mock up of the start of the text message:

That is curiously worded and vague.  Newshub do not give further details would that indicate the knowledge claimed proves they are a member of the National caucus. Jenna Lynch on National’s inquity:

“Because it will be internal, even if the Nats do find the person responsible they may choose to keep that a secret, so we may never  learn the identity of the leaker…unless of course, someone was to leak that.”

An odd closing statement. ‘We’ the public may never find out who the leaker was, but ‘we’ the Newshub (or at least O’Brien’) must know who it is.

And questions are being asked about what Mallard and Ardern know about the identity of the leaker too.

NZH: Jacinda Ardern admits speaking to Trevor Mallard about leak inquiry but says it was perfectly innocent

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed she spoke to Speaker Trevor Mallard last Friday before he announced the cancellation of the inquiry into leaked travel expenses but says their conversation was to advise her of his decision.

“It was not a dialogue,” her spokesman said. “She did not have any input into the decision.”

She did not know who the leaker was and she did not have any conversation with the Speaker about who it might be, the spokesman said.

So she must have based her statements like “This is a matter for the National Party” on what Mallard told her.

National leader Simon Bridges, who also received the text, has suggested Mallard was influenced by Ardern’s public comments when she said it was an internal matter for National and should be dealt with sensitively.

Shadow leader of the House Gerry Brownlee said today there had been no need for Mallard to advise the Prime Minister of his decision to cancel the inquiry.

“On what basis did he do that?”

Mallard had said he believed the leak came from National and the Prime Minister had said it should be dealt with sensitively, said Brownlee.

“On what basis do they make that statement? Do they know? And are they simply not telling us because of some commitments around parliamentary security and diplomatic protection security.”

Brownlee said if Mallard knew who the person was who leaked the document and sent the texts, he should tell National.

“He has made it very clear that his concerns are about the well-being of the individual concerned and we would share that concern and want to do something about it.”

“Most MPs are pretty incensed that the Speaker has gone out and effectively pointed the finger at our caucus and made a couple of pretty serious accusations – one of extreme disloyalty and another of a problematic mental illness.”

The police have been in contact with the leaker, but won’t give further details:

“We reiterate our comment from Friday that Police will not be disclosing any information about the identity of the individual for privacy reasons”.

“We also reiterate that Police assessed the information supplied [by Simon Bridges about the text] as a mental health issue requiring an immediate response.

“It is not subject to other investigative steps. We are not going to discuss any matters regarding specific steps taken regarding the welfare of the individual. “

I’m not sure it’s clear how the police found out the leaker’s identity, as it has been claimed the contact was made via an anonymous phone. Were they able to track the source to a specific office in Parliament? A specific residence in Wellington? or somewhere else?

Timeline (NZH):

August 13 – Newshub publish story based on Simon Bridges’ leaked expenses.
August 15 – Speaker Mallard agrees to hold inquiry.
August 16 – Bridges, Mallard and Newshub receive anonymous text message allegedly from National MP pleading for inquiry to be called off on mental health grounds.
August 17 – Bridges talks to mental health experts and tells police about text on advice.
August 19 – Police tell Bridges they have identified and contacted texter (won’t name them) and that the person is getting support.
August 23 – Mallard names Michael Heron QC to conduct inquiry.
August 24 – RNZ reveals texts were sent previous week to Bridges and Mallard; Ardern and others comment publicly.
August 24 – Mallard cancels inquiry.

The day the text was sent was a Thursday. Parliament wasn’t sitting so MPs may or may not have been at Parliament.

How did the police find out who the leaker was.

Were the three texts identical? Did Bridges or Mallard tell the police who it was? Or did they identify themselves only to O’Brien and she told them?

Last Friday:

But also:

O’Brien has said she was sent the same text message:

I was sent the same text message Simon Bridges and Trevor Mallard were sent last week by the leaker of Bridges’ expenses.

The leaker’s message was simple, in their words:

“There is no security breach in the parliament or problem to be fixed in the system.”

“Just say you know there is no security breach”.

They shared anecdotes from National Party caucus meetings that only National Party MPs would know in an attempt to prove that they’re an MP, and that the leak shouldn’t be dealt with at a Parliamentary level overseen by a Queen’s Counsel or High Court judge.

But Bridges and other National MPs say they are not convinced it proves it was a National MP.

Newshub chose not to report on the text message after we received it last Thursday. I held grave concerns for my source’s safety and wellbeing.

I would like to make it clear that when I was leaked Simon Bridges’ expenses I was completely unaware of my source’s history of mental health issues.

With some details of the text having been cherry picked, leaked and then discussed by Simon Bridges we have made the decision to release other elements to balance and include our source’s voice.

She refers to both “my source” and “our source”. She at least must know who it was – and as a journalist should protect the identity of her source.

But can she be sure the person who sent the text was her source? Did she verify it with them perhaps?

More importantly given the current state of this saga, does Mallard know who it is? It would appear so given his apparent confidence that it’s only an internal National Party problem now. So did he get a different text?

And why is Bridges and National so driven to keep this story alive and identify the leaker?

If there is a National MP with serious mental health issues, and/or who has said their life was at risk if the inquiry continued (effectively blackmailing Mallard), this is surely a concern of parliament and therefore of the Speaker.

The way things are now, if it is a National MP, then National have a major problem. It would mean they have an MP with serious mental health issues and/or threatened the Speaker.

And they have someone in their caucus who has leaked relatively trivial information to attack their leader. That makes things very awkward for Bridges and National, knowing that whatever caucus says could be leaked again. No wonder they want to identify the leaker.

UPDATE (Tuesday pm):