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Jacinda Ardern recalls impact of suicide rally as Government pledges billions to mental health - 'It affects us all'

Low unemployment, low debt, planning for mental health challenges, cheaper education for families, lifting children out of poverty and decreasing homelessness - "This is what our wellbeing budget looks like, this is what we came into politics to do and we're doing it," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today. 

"Budgets are all about priorities," the Prime Minister said after Budget 2019 was delivered.

"You have a limited budget and limited money but we need to make sure you balance the economy, grow the economy, balance the books, create jobs, look after our people and look after the environment, this Budget shows that you can do all of those things". 

Read: Budget 2019 'disappointing' to middle NZ, mental health funding 'well under-cooked' - Amy Adams

Budget 2019 puts down an overall spend of $1.9 billion on mental health, $1.1b to improving child wellbeing and $1b into KiwiRail - spending that will see a new frontline mental health service, the scrapping of school donations for decile 1-7 and investment in hospital repairs.

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    Campaigners calling for a mental health inquiry brought 606 shoes to parliament today. Source: 1 NEWS

    In her Budget speech, Ms Ardern reflected on a suicide prevention rally in 2017 before she was Prime Minister. 

    "It was a weekend, so didn’t have the usual gathering of people and onlookers. Instead it contained a group of bereaved people, family and friends, who had lost loved ones to suicide.

    "They had brought with them pairs of shoes to represent the number of lives that had been lost that year alone. I knew who one of those pairs of shoes belonged to, just like every single member of this House will know someone.

    Source: TVNZ

    "We have two degrees of separation to each other, but there is no separation when it comes to New Zealand’s experience of suicide. It affects all of us."

    Ms Ardern spoke about mental health and wellbeing being predicted by the World Health Orgnaisation to be the world's biggest health problem by 2030.

    "We can’t afford to wait for that to happen," Ms Ardern said.

    Just a day after the Government pledged a "significant" boost into mental health services, it announced a $455m injection for 325,000 people to access support by 2023/24 through a new mental health service, and it has put $200m of DHB investment into mental health and addiction services.

    Suicide prevention received $40m and $44m over four years for improvements to drug addiction services. 

    Read: Social investment from Budget 2019 will come at a fiscal loss says top economist

    While National leader Simon Bridges said the Budget did "not live up to its hype," he did commend the $1.9 billion investment into mental health.

    "The reality is what they’ve done is good, there is smoke and mirrors there though. For example, in that $1.9 billion you talk about you’ve got Housing First which was a National Party policy.

    "Now would you really say that was mental health?"

    Mr Bridges said it was a case of "double counting" but he was not critical of "that part of the Budget."