Welcome to the Balance Aotearoa Website

Feedback for Guidelines for the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992

Changing Minds, Balance Aotearoa and Platform Trust are seeking your feedback on the Ministry of Health’s consultation on amendments to the Guidelines for the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 (the Act). https://consult.health.govt.nz/mental-health/draft-revisions-to-the-guidelines-to-the-mental-he/

Balance Aotearoa has been working on revision of the Guidelines with the Director of Mental Health since 2015. Changing Minds and Platform Trust wish to support Balance Aotearoa and ensure our collective voices shape the new iteration. (The Ministry has indicated that it would like to see group or joint submissions, though you may also wish to provide an individual submission.)

We would like your feedback on our draft submission. To download the draft submission please click the following links: 

Please reply to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  by 5pm on Friday January 10th 2020 in order to give us time to collate all input before submissions close on January 17th 2020.

We are aware that there have been many calls recently to provide your advice and insights, and that this is a busy time of year for everyone. As always, we are grateful for the gift of your voice in this submission and for any time you have to share your views with us.

Once submitted, the final submission document will be published on the Balance Aotearoa, Changing Minds, and Platform Trust websites.

Many thanks,
Balance Aotearoa, Changing Minds, and Platform Trust



Feedback on "He Ara Oranga" ( The Mental Health & Addictions Inquiry Report) and priorities for the transformation from people with lived experience and whanau

Balance Aotearoa and the Wellbeing Coalition Aotearoa were contracted by the Ministry of Health to gather feedback from people with lived experience of mental distress and addiction and whanau on the Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. Around 100 people responded to questions via an online feedback and voting platform (Mentimeter) and a group of 26 leaders lived experience and whanau leader met to discuss the report on Feb 13th 2019.

Overall support for the report but there are gaps and shortcomings

Overall, people responded to the report with feelings of ‘hope’ and ‘optimism’. They believe the report presents an unprecedented opportunity for whole of system transformation.

But they also expressed concerns that some of the key messages in the report were not reflected in the recommendations and that some of the ‘big issues’ that matter to them were not emphasised enough.

The 16 big issues that need more attention

In the transformation process they want to see more emphasis and priority given to the sixteen big issues:

  1. Ending forced treatment rather than just ‘minimising’ it.
  2. Developing advocacy and better processes to ensure system accountability.
  3. Ending the health-led system and moving towards cross-sector a community led funding and delivery.
  4. Developing community-based replacements to acute inpatient services.
  5. Defining and providing easy access to broad range of responses.
  6. Giving priority to developing peer support.
  7. Funding and equipping whanau and communities, not just services.
  8. Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi with tangible actions to develop Maori for Maori solutions and equitable outcomes.
  9. Developing and funding lived experience and whanau roles and a national lead agency.
  10. Ensuring people who use services have decision-making power with the involvement of trusted whanau.
  11. Focusing efforts on children and young people.
  12. Preventing and responding to adverse childhood events (ACEs).
  13. Stopping inequities and discrimination.
  14. Creating a zero-suicide target.
  15. Ensuring people with lived experience lead the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.
  16. Developing a full co-production process for the transformation, not just co-design.

The full report

Download the full 10-page report to the Ministry of Health and the Minister of Health here:

Priorities for the transformation from people with lived experience and whānau as a PDF

Priorities for the transformation from people with lived experience and whanau as a Word document



The Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry panel received over 5,000 submissions, and Panel members attended over 300 meetings with individuals, community groups and stakeholders around the country. They’ve heard from many people about their experiences of mental health and addiction. This includes individuals’ personal experiences (directly or as family/whanau), what’s working well and what isn’t, and the experiences of providers, clinicians and advocates.

The Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry pane honoured our contributions by developing a report called He Ara Oranga that is hoped will lead to significant improvements in mental health and addiction in New Zealand and create hope for the future. The Inquiry was a once in a generation opportunity to make real change. We are seizing that opportunity.

Balance Aotearoa had it's turn with a 90 minute forum in Whanganui during this time. And this was our written submission with an appendix that we took to the Panel about, as well as hosting Whanganui Tangata Whaiora to have their say.

Balance NZ and Balance Whanganui merged to become Balance Aotearoa in July 2016. We took this decision to ensure the ongoing sustainability of our respective organisations so that we can continue to contribute to the mental health and addictions sector as a peer-led organisation.
All the things that Balance NZ currently does remains in place i.e. peer led workshops, the online forums and our participation as a Disabled Person’s Organisation.

As a merged organisation we need to renew our membership connection with you. We invite new and existing members to sign up here. This means you will need to apply to become a member of Balance Aotearoa should you wish to.

If you have an queries or concerns please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 06 345 4488

Thank you for your ongoing support.


Balance Aotearoa is a charitable trust that makes a difference in the lives of those affected by mental health issues. If this is your first visit you may like to have a look through the menus to get a feel for what the site and the network can offer you.

Balance Aotearoa is continuously evolving in our understandings of mental health and addiction issues and also the things which truly support mental and physical well-being, recovery and resilience.

As we evolve, one of the obvious outcomes is an increasing interest in the power of language to determine our ways of thinking about and responding to all of above.

Words are powerful things. They can hurt and heal, persuade and negate. Words and the language they make up do things, make things happen, and as creatures that rely on language we make words work to our own ends. It is language that makes it possible for us to think certain things and not others and the meanings we attach to words are not static: they change over time and in different circumstances.
‘Mental illness’ is one of those terms that has been gifted to us by a medical and psychiatric way of understanding thoughts and feelings that are causing a person distress: a particular way of understanding problems of the mind. Many people have found it very helpful to think of their difficulties as an illness. In fact it has now become so common place to think this way that we assume that people with a ‘mental illness’ must always be treated or helped by a mental health service.

But there are also people who have not found it helpful, neither the notion of illness nor the help of mental health services. Indeed thinking this way often binds both the person themselves and others around them into a self-fulfilling prophecy of a disempowered, dependent “career” as a person with a “mental illness”. When this happens it is neither helpful nor healing. It is a way of thinking that can have negative repercussions for both the person, their family and also inevitably leads to increased financial costs to our health and welfare services.
Because of this, Balance Aotearoa is looking for a way to be more inclusive of the range of human experiences without necessarily having to think of them as illness. As an organisation we are in a transition from historically seeing benefit in the notion of mental illness but now becoming increasingly concerned about the way it limits what can be thought about problems of the mind and how best to respond to them.

This is in no way intended to play down the seriousness or the suffering that often ensues for those with this wide range of life challenges, but it is intended to help create the space in our thinking for responding in a more beneficial and optimistic way.
Medication is a good example. If you can only think about difficult emotions or disturbing thoughts as an illness located in the brain then medication that affects how the brain works is logically seen as the primary way to help a person. Indeed medications can be helpful to some people, but there also needs to be space to explore other ways of helping people heal: ways that are more hope-based and build on a person’s strengths, rather than their deficits. Ways that engage a person in their own understanding and their own power to act for their well-being, rather than passively “accept treatment”.

So, in an effort to make space to think differently Balance Aotearoa is making a conscious attempt to change the way it uses words. There are two particular changes we are making: firstly we are going to refrain from using the term mental illness and secondly we are going to incorporate the term ‘disability’.  We are not going to stop using medically based terms such as depression or bipolar but when we use them, we will always have in mind that there might be other ways to think about these experiences beyond psychiatric meanings. We are also going to be using the term psycho-social ‘disability’ more in our language. What we find helpful about this term is the way it suggests that a person’s difficulties do not generally lie solely within the individual: that other people (both individually and within the “structures” of society) responding in a discriminating and stigmatising manner can be even more traumatising and “disabling” than the disturbing thoughts and feelings that a person is experiencing.
The term psycho-social disability also encourages us to think about a person as not disordered or diseased but as a person who has the same humanness and rights as everyone else. Rather than implying a person is "wrong" and needs to be "fixed" to meet society's needs, it suggests a citizen with rights that need to be upheld.