Zoe Palmer has been petitioning against Nelson Marlborough Health’s proposed changes to its youth mental health support. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Mental health silence ‘slap in the face’

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The driving force behind a petition to reverse changes to youth mental health services says the silence from the Government on the issue feels like a “slap in the face.”

Zoe Palmer, 17, has already gathered almost 1300 signatures over Nelson Marlborough Health’s proposed changes to the on-call Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) crisis team.

Under the review, the after-hours CAMHS team, which provides specialist help to young people at risk, would be replaced by a more general team.

“As a CAMHS client myself we should have been asked, but we heard nothing until it was announced,” Zoe says. “There was just a complete lack of collaborative process.”

But it is the silence from politicians which irks her the most.

Last year, then-local Labour candidate Rachel Boyack and now Health Minister David Clark came to Nelson and spoke strongly about the importance of youth mental health services in the region.

Rachel herself launched her own petition last year dedicated to preserving CAMHS.

However, now Zoe says there has been no indication of the Government’s position on the CAMHS issue.

“It’s a slap in the face for people who voted for those parties,” she says. “I’m not sure why people at the top have stopped speaking out about it. It is still an issue and it hasn’t gone away.”

Between 1992 and 2013 there were 72 youth suicides in the Nelson Marlborough region, according to the Ministry of Health data.

Rachel Boyack told the Nelson Weekly that her position had always been that CAMHS should be retained as is, and has written to the minister about the issue.

“My view has always been that it should be put on hold until the mental health review happened. I haven’t gone quiet on that. My view has always been that and still believe that this service should be retained as it is.”

The Government recently announced a nationwide mental health inquiry which was driven by a widespread concern, both from within and outside the sector, that mental health and addiction services were at crisis point and struggling to cope with the increase in demand. A report is due back to government by October.

Rachel says her hope was that her petition, that she launched last year, would be added to Zoe’s.

The Nelson Weekly sought comment from Health Minister David Clark but did not hear a reply by the time of publication.

Zoe’s petition can be found at our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/save-the-camhs-crisis-team