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How Jacinda Ardern’s “wellbeing” budget will improve the mental health of New Zealanders

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Sarah Shaffi
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Jacinda Ardern

We’ve got yet another reason to love Jacinda Ardern.

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Jacinda Ardern, and for good reason. She made history by becoming the first world leader to take her then three-month daughter to a gathering of the UN general assembly. She’s handled sexist questions thrown her way by responding with grace. And, of course, her actions in the days following the New Zealand mosque attack, including immediately announcing that gun laws would change, would put other leaders to shame.

And now, Ardern and her Labour government have become the first western country to design an entire budget based on wellbeing as a priority, according to the Guardian.

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The budget includes NZ$1.9bn, equivalent to around £980m, for mental health spending. This includes half a billion for New Zealanders suffering from mild to moderate anxiety and depressive disorders that affected their quality of life, and half a billion to be spent on new frontline mental health workers. These staff would be stationed in doctor’s surgeries and Indigenous clinics.

Child wellbeing has been allocated $1bn, and there is also funding in the budget for combating family violence.

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Speaking in a video ahead of the budget’s release minister of finance Grant Robertson said: “We’ve used evidence about what’s going to make the biggest difference for the long-term wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

“We’ve identified five priorities. We’re finally going to be taking mental health seriously. We want to make sure that we break the cycle of domestic violence, sexual violence and poverty for children. We want to make sure that we close those gaps between Maori and Pacific aspirations.

“We also want to make sure that we’re growing the economy in a sustainable way and we’re preparing for the future of work.”

The budget has been welcomed by groups including The Drug Foundation, a charity working to prevent alcohol and other drug harm. 

It can sometimes feel like governments are just working to keep themselves in power, but when you see something like this it can restore your faith in the process.

Image: Getty

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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