Education groups are calling for double the number of educational psychologists employed in the public sector to improve the mental health of young people.

Representatives from the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS), Institute of Developmental and Educational Psychology (IEDP) and teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa met this week to discuss ways that educational psychologists can support young people in schools.

The groups agreed that the educational psychology workforce needs urgent attention. NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter reported that “principals and teachers are crying out for help with young people with mental health difficulties”.

The calls come after the Governement announced a ministerial inquiry into New Zealand’s mental health and addiction services. The inquiry will be chaired by former Health and Disability Commissioner, Professor Ron Paterson, and will report back to the Government by the end of October.

However, the inquiry has been criticised by the Opposition, with National’s spokesperson for Mental Health Matt Doocey saying it will just delay action for those who need help now.

“Everyone agrees that we need to respond to the growing demand for mental health services in New Zealand as well as increasing psychological and emotional resilience of individuals, families and communities, but a prolonged inquiry on its own is not going to help those who need dedicated services right now.”

The educational groups agree help can’t come soon enough for young people, with half of all lifetime cases of mental disorder starting before the age of 14.

They state that psychological health needs to be nurtured in young people from an early age, and that schools and early childhood education centres play an important role in ensuring young people have a ‘good start’ and develop resilience to difficulties in later life.

The Ministry currently employs 172 full-time-equivalent psychologists but it has been estimated that New Zealand needs to double that number to meet its needs and provide an equivalent standard of care to Scotland, which has a similar population.

“Psychologists not only need to be on hand when there is a crisis but also available to help schools develop their skills and resilience in these situations. Prevention and early intervention is beneficial and cost effective. Educational psychologists have skills to help schools prevent mental health difficulties develop,” says Quentin Abraham, president of the NZPsS.

Photo caption: Pictured at this week’s NZEI/NZPsS meeting (left to right): Michele Blick (Chair of the Institute of Developmental and Educational Psychology, (IEDP), Paul Goulter (National Secretary, New Zealand Education Institute, NZEI), Bella Pardoe (Executive Officer, NZEI), and Quentin Abraham (President of the New Zealand Psychological Society, NZPsS).



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