Mental health minister says he’s committed to by Māori, for Māori approach

A warning this story covers sensitive issues

New Zealand’s mental health crisis shows no sign of easing, with our suicide rates among the worst in the OECD, particularly among young people.

According to latest figures from Health NZ - Te Whatu Ora the number of Māori suicides is nearly double that for non-Māori - and the country’s first minister for mental health says he is 100% committed to ensuring there’s a dedicated effort to improve Māori wellbeing.

“I firmly believe we need services that are by Māori, for Māori - whether it’s kaupapa, or tikanga Māori services. Because that is the stuff that breaks down the stigma and the discrimination and the barriers for people to access support,” Minister Matt Doocey told Stuff’s Newsable podcast on Thursday.

The minister denied the scrapping of the Māori Health Authority would hamper his plans.

“I think it actually frees up resources.. what we’ve said for Māori delivered services, is we’ll have them inside one system. I’ve already worked and talked to a range of iwi providers, and I’m really keen to work alongside them because they know their community.”

The Auditor-General recently released a report which said the mental health needs of many youths are not being met - something Doocey is passionate about changing, as he is also the Minister for Youth.

“We need to look at one-stop shop services that are designed by young people, are accessible to young people, and face less discrimination and stigma.. The evidence shows they are making a difference.”

When asked how his success should be measured, Doocey said one way would be if future governments continued the role.

“I would love the next government to say “that new role works, so we’re going to continue with it”.

Listen to the full interview here.