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As soon as the Inquiry was established, we met to discuss what we hoped to achieve as an Inquiry panel and how we would undertake our work. We agreed on a set of values to guide our engagement with people, our deliberations, and the development of our report and its recommendations. Our guiding values have been:

  • aroha – love, compassion, empathy
  • whanaungatanga – relationship, kinship, sense of connection
  • kotahitanga – unity, togetherness, solidarity, collective action
  • whakamana – respect for everyone’s dignity and connections
  • mahitahi – collaboration, cooperation
  • tūmanako pai – hope, positivity.

The Government set us a challenging timeframe. As a panel, we sought to make it easy for people to have their say and we engaged as widely as possible.

In April 2018, we released a consultation document in multiple languages and formats. We offered people the opportunity to make submissions online or in writing by email or post, to provide audio or video submissions, to provide submissions in a variety of languages, or to call a toll-free 0800 number and speak with someone who could write down their views. People could also present their views at Meet the Panel meetings at 26 locations around the country. Over 2,000 people attended these meetings.

We used social and traditional media to promote the Inquiry, spark discussion and encourage participation in the Inquiry. Our Facebook posts were shown to nearly 497,000 people between 13 May and 9 June 2018.

We received over 5,200 submissions through the various channels. We received 16 petitions with 339,217 signatures by 18 October 2018. Petitions were initiated by family members bereaved by suicide, parents searching for services to help their children, young service users calling for better community services, and organisations and individuals determined to make New Zealand a world leader in mental health care.

Over the course of the Inquiry, we held over 400 meetings with tāngata whaiora, 8 their families and whānau, other members of the public, health and other service providers, Iwi and Kaupapa Māori providers, community organisations, researchers and other experts. These meetings traversed a range of issues affecting mental health and addiction services in communities as well as people’s desire for a wider focus on promoting positive mental health and wellbeing across Aotearoa New Zealand.

We travelled the length of the country, and everywhere we went we heard stories of heartbreak and stories of hope. We listened to kōrero in community centres, in village halls, on marae, at Returned Services’ Associations, at workers’ and sports clubs, at youth centres, and in churches and prisons. We visited city missions, a rest home and a refugee centre.

At the Paraparaumu Bowling Club on a sunny winter’s day we heard about issues facing elderly people. On a stormy June day at Te Mānuka Tūtahi Marae, Whakatane, we heard an Iwi perspective. At the Te Awamutu Rugby Club on a cold, wet July day we talked about mental health challenges for rural communities. One August night in Wellington, Rainbow leaders sang and shared with us, while historic pride quilts adorned the walls. People’s concerns were real, the issues diverse, often emotional and sometimes tragic, but also hopeful and inspirational.

We were humbled by the willingness of people to share their personal stories and their hopes for the future.

We sought information from a wide variety of government agencies on the services and programmes they fund and where they thought the gaps and opportunities were. We commissioned a report from the University of Otago, Wellington, on the determinants of mental health and wellbeing, specific populations’ experience of mental health and wellbeing, and opportunities for service improvements and a move to a wellbeing approach. 9

We read widely and held numerous follow-up meetings with experts on particular topics. All this material was included in our deliberations, alongside the voices of the people.

8  Literally translated, ‘tāngata whaiora’ means ‘people seeking wellness’. See also the explanation in Table 1.

9  R Cunningham, A Kvalsvig, D Peterson, S Kuehl, S Gibb, S McKenzie, L Thornley and S Every-Palmer. 2018. Stocktake Report for the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry. Wellington: University of Otago.

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