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Tag Archives: Nz Lobbyists

Government Lobbying Lessons for Suicide Prevention from the States

Suicide Prevention is an important issue across the globe. NZ may have one of the highest per-capita suicide rates in the OECD, but America isn’t far behind, and they may have a few lessons for us when it comes to influencing the people making the decisions.

In  2013, the American Psychological Association (APA) lobbied their senators to reauthorise and improve legislation that ensures prevention programmes can be established and extra funds  made available at university campuses to provide treatment and support to young people who are suicidal. The Campus Suicide Prevention Programme includes survey instruments to enhance identification of those who are suicidal and funds that allow people to be channelled towards effective treatment and support. While the legislation had been introduced in 2004, in 2013, 100 APA members made 150 visits to their congressional representatives to raise awareness of the reauthorisation of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA) and succeeded in obtaining congressional support. Find out more about the APA’s efforts to influence government and the Campus Suicide Prevention Programme.

The NZ Psychological Society (NZPsS) and the NZ College of Clinical Psychologists (NZCCP) are the NZ equivalents to the APA. It is difficult to ascertain whether similar lobbying and advocacy initiatives have been undertaken by these professional bodies. However, in August 2013, the two groups did publish a media release in response to Ministry of Health and medical insurance provider decisions to limit funding and access to talking therapies. Last week, the NZ parliament published a list of all lobbyists with passes to parliament. The list included several lawyers, business people and professional lobbyists-for-hire, but no mental-health or general health professionals.

Service-users have made multiple attempts to be heard by the government in 2013, but they aren’t on the list of lobbyists either and their calls for improved access to therapy have found few tangible results. It is time that our professional bodies got behind them and one way to do that is to lobby parliament for those areas of change that professional and service-user groups agree are necessary.  The Petition for Better Mental Healthcare Choices in NZ was delivered to NZ parliament this year by Annie Chapman on behalf of over one thousand NZers. However, the Health Select Committee has yet to release comment. NZ’s professional bodies did not make any public statements to support the petition, even though their August 2013 media release shows that their aims matched all along. It is unknown whether they were informed or uninformed of the initiative. Perhaps we could also benefit from improved collaboration between service-user groups and national professional bodies: Aims do not always diverge and just occasionally these different groups are all saying the same things: the message will be stronger if we can send it in unison.