More mental health help not enough

Tracey Martin
Tracey Martin
Predictions that Covid-19 will have long-lasting impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of young people has prompted the Government to provide new front-line support.

But some Otago principals don’t think it will be enough.

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said the ministry would fund up to 40 curriculum leaders to work directly with schools, kura, early learning services and kohanga reo, to support the teaching of mental health and healthy relationships and promote the wellbeing of learners.

“For too long, as identified in the last two ERO [Education Review Office] reports, a number of schools have struggled in this area of teaching.

"The curriculum leads, a new type of role based in regional Ministry of Education offices, will provide the specialist support that primary and secondary schools have been wanting and need in this area."

The new roles would be funded from a $32.8million programme that would be delivered over four years, and are the first part of a comprehensive wellbeing support package for the entire education sector.

She said the funding would also provide resources for parents to support their understanding of the importance of teaching and learning about mental health and healthy relationships.

"This will enable families to provide support to their children at home.

"They [the leads] will also support school boards to undertake quality engagement with their local communities on the health and physical education curriculum, and promote positive school and kura environments.

"For the last 13 years, ERO reports have found weaknesses in this area, so I am exceptionally pleased that our Government has addressed this and provided this much needed support."

Both Otago Secondary Principals’ Association president Linda Miller and Primary Principals’ Association president Shelley Wilde said it was a good start, but it was not the silver bullet for the situation.

"Teaching young people to self-regulate is a real game changer in terms of addressing the large and growing mental health needs of our general population," Ms Miller said.

"A proactive and co-ordinated approach between home and school, that will enable young people to manage their own wellbeing, is key. This resource has the potential to achieve this, which is excellent.

"However, we must also acknowledge the huge shortfall in counselling resources we currently have, to enable us to respond to the current demands for mental health support.

"A combination of proactive and reactive approaches is necessary if we are to get on top of the issues being seen."

Mrs Wilde was appreciative of the initiative, but said there was still a huge need for additional counselling and resources in all schools.

"We look forward to finding out more detail about how these curriculum leads will work to support schools and children."


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