Health and wellbeing services at tertiary education institutes are set to receive $25 million to provide free mental health care for 300,000 students.
The funding will be building on the existing implementation of free mental health and wellbeing services, such as Wellington’s Piki programme and specific programmes at Auckland and Canterbury universities.
The government said the initiative aims to make mental wellbeing services more accessible for students, and it would target those with mild to moderate levels of distress through different levels of support and treatment.
It would be led by the Ministry of Health, with a Request for Proposals process to partner tertiary and health service providers to develop a mental health wellbeing support that best suits them starting from November.
Those who have limited access to mental health services or where there is indication of high levels of need would be given priority to the roll-out.
The initiative would start expanding next year and continue for the following four years, with the Ministry of Health saying students would notice an expansion in services and increased choice.
Education and Health Minister Chris Hipkins said the initiative could help students manage the stress brought on by COVID-19.
“The lockdown has been hugely disruptive for students. Many of them have had to relocate and move to online learning, isolating them from their peers and tutors.”
“It’s never been more important to ensure that our young people have access to the help they need it, when they need it.”
The Greens’ mental health spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said this is a “huge win” for students and their families, but it is not the end of the road.
The New Zealand Union of Student Associations (NZUSA) said it strongly supports the funding increase, saying it will bring enormous relief for students.
President Isabella Lenihan-Ikin said free and accessible mental health services tailored for young people are essential, and the initiative is an overdue victory for students.
“The underinvestment in mental health services has led to many people being denied the help they need.”
“Every person deserves free mental health support and this announcement today will go a long way to addressing the issues that tertiary students face.”