This blog post is extracted from a recent editorial of the journal Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work written by Neil Ballantyne and Liz Beddoe. The editorial extract refers to a commentary in the journal by Genevieve Smith and Joanna Appleby.
In their commentary on the “Social work practice implications of upcoming mental health reforms”, Genevieve Smith and Joanna Appleby offer an informative account of the key challenges for mental health services and for people experiencing mental distress in Aotearoa New Zealand. They contextualise their discussion with reference to the impact of four decades of neoliberal reforms on our people and on our health and social services—reforms that have fostered deep economic inequality, racism, precarity and despair in the lives of the many (see, also, the review of Ferguson, 2017 in this issue). These reforms have devastated mental health services through underfunding, service rationing and managerial business models that alienate service users, pressurise frontline workers and fracture service provision. Smith and Appleby explore four challenges faced by those who would reform mental health services: the steady growth in demand for services along with the severity of presenting problems, the failure to maintain or increase the supply of services leading to issues with service accessibility, the postcode lottery of service variability between the 20 District Health Boards, and staff retention and burnout (partly a product of the first two challenges).