By: Stephanie Arthur-Worsop

School counsellor Ben Teina-Kore Curtis. Photo/Stephen Parker

Mr Teina-Kore Curtis said the workload was “more manageable” when he started at the school six years ago and was seeing about 10 students a day.

That number has since tripled, with about 30 students being seen daily between Mr Teina-Kore Curtis and the school’s second counsellor.

“Probably half of those students are daily follow -ups and six of those have serious mental health issues. The other half are one-off problems like not having a uniform or forgetting their lunch.”

The Ministry of Education does not fund Mr Teina-Kore Curtis, instead funding comes from the school’s operational grant.

“It’s hard to say what is influencing this rise, but we are definitely seeing an increase. Poverty, environmental influences and families struggling all influence a child’s ability to cope.

“Children are coming through with high anxiety levels, some have been self-harming since primary school and some have trauma from their past.”

Mr Teina-Kore Curtis does home visits and often ends up being a counsellor to the whole family.

“Often these children come from homes where the parents are fearful of education and schools. It becomes my job to care for the whole unit, not just the child.

“It’s ridiculous how hard it is to get help for these younger students. There’s help once they reach secondary school, but for those suffering from serious mental health issues at an early age, help at high school is too late.

“Primary and intermediate schools are where the work needs to be done – Where the changes need to be made.”

He said some days it felt as if he was constantly fighting against the grain.

“It is so hard to get referrals and agencies involved at this age, often they don’t come on until something serious happens and by then it’s too late.

“Some agencies have been great, but we’ve had to really fight to get them here, and many need to be approached by the parents, which can be a real stumbling block too.”

Source: NZ Herald

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