The New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) has welcomed the Government’s  $10 million pilot on mental health for 18-25-year-olds, saying it is exactly what New Zealanders are crying out for.

Health Minister Dr David Clark and Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter are encouraging mental health providers to put forward innovative bids to run a pilot programme to provide free counselling for 18 to 25 year olds. The pilot is an adaptation of the UK Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme which enables a variety of responses based on client need.

Clark says kicking off the procurement process for the Integrated Therapies Pilot today represents a significant step towards improving access and availability for a range of psychological therapies.

“We know young people with mild to moderate mental health need help.  Three quarters of all lifetime cases of mental illness start by 25 years of age. That underlines the importance of providing support for our young people as soon as possible.

“We need to make a difference to those rangatahi who aren’t currently accessing mental health services for a variety of reasons – because they can’t afford them, the services aren’t appropriate, or because their needs aren’t recognised as severe enough.”

NZAC president, Bev Weber, hopes the pilot will go beyond the three-year term.

“When it comes to the mental health of New Zealanders, we know that accessibility to services is crucial for the current and future mental health of our young people.”

“In recent years we have seen a development in factors that contribute to poor mental health,” says Ms Weber, “Therefore, we hope that mental health and counselling services expand and continue to get the funding they need to continue the work the pilot will carry out.”

Julie Anne Genter points to increasing international evidence that psychological therapies can help improve the mental health of young people.

“There needs to be more information about what works in the New Zealand context, what works for young Māori, young people with disabilities, young Pacific people and young rainbow New Zealanders,” says Genter.

“This pilot can help us gather that information – and at the same time make a difference in the lives of those young people that use its services.”

Clark says the Government is also working on the ongoing rollout of the Mana Ake programme in Canterbury and Kaikoura, where another 26 schools are now receiving mental health and wellbeing support from the beginning of term three.

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