Students are welcoming the expansion of Piki, a free youth mental health support pilot. The Piki trial, which began in Porirua in February, has been expanded to provide free counselling for youth between 16 and 26 in the greater Wellington region, along with a website and online wellness app ‘melon’.

Piki is available to all students within the capital and coast DHB area. There will be 17 full-time counsellors employed within the region to serve all 18 – 25 year olds (including students’ from all tertiary providers), with 5 additional full time mental health advocates at Victoria University and Massey University Wellington alone.

James Ranstead, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations believes the Wellington region will act as a strong representative sample of Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Students from Victoria University of Wellington and Massey University both showed moderate to high levels of psychological distress compared with other tertiary institutes, highlighting the need for action in this area,” he says, in reference to findings published in NZUSA’s ‘kei to pai’ report on student mental health, published last year.

Minister of Health David Clark and Associate Minister of Health of the Green Party Julie Anne Genter announced the roll-out earlier this week.

“WE KNOW LIFE CAN SOMETIMES BE TOUGH FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE AND MANY FACE MENTAL DISTRESS. PIKI DELIVERS FREE ACCESS TO COUNSELLING SERVICES AND OTHER MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT THAT CAN MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE,” SAID DR CLARK.

“Piki caters to young people who might previously have struggled to find help because they couldn’t afford it, the services weren’t appropriate, or because their needs weren’t recognised.

“We know three quarters of all lifetime cases of mental illness develop by 24 years of age. Piki is all about early intervention and preventing small problems becoming big issues.”

Julie Anne Genter said Piki will help up to an estimated 10,000 young people with mild to moderate mental health symptoms across the three greater Wellington region DHBs.

“While not every 18 to 25 year old will be studying, their ability to get access is a significant step in improving mental health and wellbeing support for this age group.”

Genter also drew special attention to the peer support and culturally relevant support offered by Piki.

People can access the pilot through many methods – self-referral, contact through the Government-funded mental health support line 1737, seeking help from DHBs or their GP, school referrals and many others.

NZUSA says it is also looking forward to Government’s response to He Ara Oranga, the National Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.

Piki empowers and supports young adults towards better health and wellbeing. Visit the website here.

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