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Mental health

What is the cost?

I’ve been saying that I wanted to write about the cost of the lack of understanding of mental health in New Zealand.

Then Bob Jones demonstrated it for me. The particular comment I refer to has been removed from today’s column – (which also, incidentally, insulted some of our greatest writers, spurned Creative NZ, patronised the struggling literary and creative industry, and condemns anyone who accepts government support because of injury or illness or other uncontrollable circumstances – which, wow, how the fuck does all that fit into such a tiny pathetic little piece of “journalism?”) – but not before I, unfortunately, had the chance to read and screenshot it.

This is the cost of the lack of understanding of mental health in New Zealand.


Life. Life is the cost of lack of understanding.

(N.B The piece doesn’t say explicitly that the named person struggled with mental illness – but healthy people don’t usually commit suicide).

I know that people who have not suffered from mental illness may struggle to understand it. I don’t know what it feels like to have a broken leg. That doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for someone who does.

Perhaps compassion, more than understanding, is more what I mean here – but understanding something medically and economically is, surprisingly, an easier request than asking someone to care.

Lack of understanding and compassion on a personal level hurts.  It hurts when someone close to you doesn’t recognise or validate what you’re going through.

But lack of understanding at a systemic level kills people. It’s killing people right now.

The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020 depression will be the most significant illness in the world, accounting for 15% of the global burden of disease.

Based on Ministry of Justice statistics, we lose approximately 10 New Zealanders to suicide every week. The latest figure (for June 2012 to June 2013) was 541 people.

The most significant illness in the world. 541 people. And one of our major newspapers publishes a column by a man who gloats that he encouraged someone to kill themselves.

I know I’ve written about this before. But our mental health funding continues to get cut. Bob Jones happily takes the opportunity to deny that many ACC claimants need or deserve the help they’re asking for. In the last year almost 90% of ACC claims for support following sexual abuse were deferred or turned down.

I suffered abuse. I’ve just been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – to go along with my manic depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive, and borderline eating disorders.

I’m getting some help now. Because services are so underfunded, it took being suicidal for that to happen – and it took several weeks from the admission that I wanted to die, to get to see a psychologist. Today, I sat in front of my doctor and cried because the medication they’ve given me isn’t working, and I can’t see my psychologist for the next three weeks because of the Christmas break. He has suggested I admit myself, and I’ve agreed. I’m finding out more about this soon.

Then I came home and read a column by a rich old white man who says that I shouldn’t have a benefit, that I think I’m entitled to help when I’m not, that I need to pay my overdue ACC levies which I can’t afford because if I don’t I’m a bludger, and considers that my life isn’t really actually worth living at all and why don’t I just get this over with?

Thanks for pointing all this out, Mr Jones. Your ‘impeccable logic’ has sorted a few things for me.

1. Lack of understanding of the seriousness of mental illness leads to lack of funding.

2. Lack of funding leads to lack of services, and long wait lists, and people slipping through the cracks because they’re almost-but-not-quite bad enough to see someone – and then they are, but it’s too late.

3. Therefore, as I said earlier. Lack of understanding of the prevalence, effects and severity of mental illness leads to loss of life.

I know I’m not alone, because this tweet had RTs for days. I’m suffering. My friends are suffering. It makes me sick that while we’re suffering, a national newspaper gives column space to a man who is proud that his words caused someone to kill themselves.  A man who cowers in his mansion, spitting poison whilst being protected from the fallout on the very basis that he’s a rich old white dude who’s buddies with someone important in the media.

Could this get any more cliche?

You know what’s stopping me from “getting it over with quickly” right now, Mr Jones? Because if I do, you win. And actually, I’ve just made a wee pact with myself.

You’re going to die before me, you ridiculous old man. This is not a threat. It’s a simple statement of fact. And when you do, I will not be proud. I will not feel vindicated. I will not be happy that the world has one less arrogant misanthrope in its midst.

I just won’t notice.


About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@_writehanded_) or read more of her writing at


10 thoughts on “What is the cost?

  1. This is a great post but I think you might mean misogynist instead of misandrist in the last sentence.

    Posted by A | December 17, 2013, 8:12 am
  2. Thank you, actually I meant misanthrope and I’ve changed it now. He’s a misogynist too but this piece shows his disdain for humanity.

    Posted by writehandedgirl | December 17, 2013, 8:16 am
  3. My doctor informed me that in order to qualify for help with depression, I had to lie about being suicidal. This then got me put on the “urgent” list, which meant some people would have a meeting about it in a week or two.

    Surely there’s got to be better support than this.

    Posted by depressed | December 20, 2013, 3:51 am
  4. Brilliant… absolutely brilliant. Have shared on FB and Twitter…

    Posted by Frank Macskasy | December 20, 2013, 3:59 am
  5. I have a family member suffering from mental health problems. It is very difficult and sad. Sick people need all the help and support they can get.

    Posted by Peter Petterson | December 20, 2013, 7:32 am
  6. I don’t know if there’s an answer to this… But honestly, there’s no one else to ask.. I’m in similiar situation to you with WINZ. In fact I recently had a cancer scare, and even when facing the fact I may have cancer I was told “You’ll still be on jobseekers, we expect you to be working, even if you have cancer.” Okay, fine, whatever.. But I’m a single mum, with two children who have -no where- to go if I die of cancer, and stress, and stress related cancer, because I’ll be working my rear off while I’m having hospital visits for chemo. Srs. But thank God, I’m clear of cancer. I’m still facing major surgery soon for other health issues, and my Doctor is taking my health problems “one at a time” which means this surgery may be followed up by another. I couldn’t afford to go to the Doctor till they put me on the C+ sceme, now I’m getting Everything I ever needed from so long ago sorted. Anyway, I’m rambling… When will this end? The inhumane treatment? The rediculous impression they have that seriously ill people (whether physical or mental) are able to work full time as well as survive. That if they can’t work full time, they can survive on a day to day basis? What about those who DON’T have the friends and family to take them places and bring them meals? (No offense to those who do, good on you!) When we can’t afford tampons for us, or God forbid, our children (Ever gone to school without toiletries? I remember doing it, it’s humiliating and damages you for life, you know, when you stand up and your clothes are stained all because your parents can’t afford the basics).. Where does it end??

    Posted by Loqua | March 16, 2014, 11:12 pm


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