The government is expanding its pilot mental health programme, Piki, in an aim to target growing demand among tertiary students for comprehensive, affordable mental health services.
Launched in Porirua in February, Piki delivers mental health services to youth with mild to moderate mental health needs. Individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 can access Piki by directly contacting the service, or having your GP do it for you. Piki counsellors will all complete cognitive behavioural training through the University of Otago.
The pilot is expanding its services to the greater Wellington regions. Victoria University will be one of the first institutions to benefit from this programme, with Julie Ann Genter promising at a roll out event in the university “this government’s continuing to deliver on its promise to make mental health a priority.”
“We know life can sometimes be tough for our young people and many face mental distress,” says Minister of Health David Clark. “Piki delivers free access to counselling services and other mental health support that can make a real difference.” Green Party spokesperson for mental health Chloe Swarbick shared a similar sentiment, recognizing “this roll-out of Piki… is a massive step towards delivering accessible mental health and well-being services for our country’s young people.”
“We understand that mental health services are in crisis and that we need urgent solutions grounded in communities,” Swarbick recognizes. “This wouldn’t be happening without the staunch mahi of students and their representatives.” The coalition government projects that Piki will deliver its services to “an estimated 10000 young people… across its DHBs.”
Clark also recognizes the contribution made by students towards these pivotal changes. “Students are a really important part of this age demographic and we heard their voices prior to the 2017 election.”
“[We have] a commitment to high quality and timely mental health services for everyone, including free counselling for those under 25 years,” say Clark. “Today’s announcement works towards fulfilling that commitment.”
Craccum believes this programme will be effective in targeting the shortage in supply of comprehensive mental health resources for tertiary students. Once the rollout of Piki’s services reaches nationwide, it will be a valuable addition to the current under resourced facilities already provided by our university.