Former All Black Sir John Kirwan wants New Zealand to have the greatest mental health in the world - calling Parliament's cross-party group "a new start" in achieveing that goal.
"New Zealanders can do anything. We have always had the courage to take on the world," Sir John said.
"We can do anything, but we've dropped the ball on this one."
Sir John, a mental health advocate spoke at the launch of the Cross-Party Mental Health and Addictions Group yesterday, where a member of each political party will work towards improving New Zealand's mental health.
"My challenge to all politicians is, don't use it as a political football ... I will put people on warning if they use it as a political football, I'll be really unhappy," Sir John said.
"Our goal for all of us sitting in this room is to have the best mental health per capita in the world.
"It's a lofty and big goal, there's a lot of work to be done, but that needs to be our goal. Greatest country in the world, and it's going to have the greatest mental health."
He described the launch of the cross party group as "a monumental day for New Zealand".
"I'm incredibly disappointed with our suicide rates... but today is a new start."
This week, the latest suicide statistics were released, showing suicides have rose to 685 between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, the highest number on record.
"The thing New Zealand needs moving forward is cross party allegiance and alliance, agreement on how we're going to face what is a world wide pandemic, not just in New Zealand," he said.
The cross party group is made up of National's Matt Doocey, Labour's Louisa Wall, Green Party's Chlöe Swarbrick, NZ First's Jenny Marcroft and ACT's David Seymour.