Politics | Gumboot Friday

Mike King is all for getting rid of Suicide Prevention Office

“This is exactly the sort of bureaucracy we need to get rid of.”

Mental health advocate Mike King is all for getting rid of the Suicide Prevention Office after an announcement late last week that a number of staff would be the cut as part of the Ministry of Health’s cost-cutting proposal.

Speaking to 1News, Mike King, known for his endeavours in the mental health area inluding the I Am Hope charity, said “It’s just another bureaucracy getting money, clipping the ticket, before they pass the money onto someone else.

“This is exactly the sort of bureaucracy we need to get rid of.”

King is the founder of I am Hope, as well as the Gumboot Friday initiative, which offers free counselling to young New Zealanders.

According to its website, it has provided more than 88,000 therapy sessions.

As part of the government’s coalition negotiations in late 2023, King’s foundation is set to receive $6m in funding each year for the coalition’s three-year term.

Te Ao Māori News asked Mike King to expand on his view but he was unavailable.

Muck-up in the ministry

Ministry of Health deputy chief executive Robyn Shearer said the ministry remained committed to suicide prevention and had assured the Minister of Mental Health Matt Doocey of this.

Mental Health Minister Matt Doocey.

Doocey publicly stated his expectation that the Suicide Prevention Office would stay open, to which Shearer said, “we are developing options to work through with the minister,” which is expected to happen early this week.

“We acknowledge we did not sufficiently brief the minister of mental health on our change proposals. The ministry is sorry for the confusion that this has caused.”

Shearer, who is also the deputy director-general for clinical, community and mental health maintained suicide prevention was still one of the “health system priorities.”

“Following the health sector reforms, the roles and functions across the Ministry of Health were changed and programmes and services were transferred to other health agencies. The Ministry of Health is the chief advisor to the new minister for mental health and leads a whole of government approach to mental wellbeing.”

The Suicide Prevention Office was created in 2019 to provide leadership and stewardship for suicide prevention efforts, following a recommendation from He Ara Oranga.

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