Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project

John Key Prime Minister

Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project

John Key and the National-led Government are passionate about the future of New Zealand’s young people.

Since 2008 we have taken a number of steps to improve the opportunities available to young people, to help keep them on the right track and succeed in the modern world. Our initiatives include:

Trades Academies
Job Ops
Community Max
Youth Guarantee: more training places
Teen parent homes
Fresh start for young people

A new focus on youth mental health

Mental health is a big issue for teenagers. Around one in five will experience some form of mental health problem during this crucial time in their lives.

Even a mild mental illness can have a big impact on young person’s life and on those around them. Teenagers and parents often don’t understand what’s going wrong or what to do about it.

Tackling youth mental health issues is complex and challenging but we do need to address the issues and we can do better.

The current system of dealing with these issues has many strengths – including a dedicated workforce doing innovative work – but it is not linked together as well as it could be.

We are going to make significant improvements to provide earlier and better help for young people with mental health issues.

The Government is implementing a well-balanced package of initiatives in four different areas – in schools, online, in families and communities, and in the health system.

These initiatives build on successful existing programmes and trial promising new ones. They have the potential to make a real difference.

For more information read The Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Speech,press release and Q&A.


We’re better equipping schools to identify students with mental health issues, sooner and we’re ensuring schools take more responsibility for the wellbeing of their students.

Extra Nurses

We’re putting extra nurses into decile three secondary schools (they are already in decile one and two schools). Nurses will provide youth development checks, identify mental health issues at their early stages and refer students for treatment.  

Extra Youth Workers

We’re putting youth workers alongside the nurses in selected low decile secondary schools. They will be specifically trained in working with young people with mental health issues and will be trialling a promising new programme called Check and Connect, which targets young people who have disengaged from school or who are at risk of it.

Addressing Bullying

Bullying can have a harmful, sometimes destructive effect on students. And a negative environment can be very difficult for kids at risk of, or suffering from, mental health issues. To help schools encourage the right type of behaviour from their students we’re going to:

  • Expand the Positive Behaviour School Wide programme to all secondary schools. The programme promotes safe and supportive school environments, and addresses bullying amongst other things.
  • Measure how well schools are doing when it comes to the wellbeing of their students through the Education Review Office (ERO). Over time school boards should be able to show improvements in the school environment, such as decreases in bullying.

Boosting self-esteem

Depression and anxiety are common problems and key risk factors in suicide.  We’re going to help students to better cope with these problems through building their resilience and boosting their self-esteem by:

  • Trialling the FRIENDS programme in 10 secondary schools. If the pilot is successful we will consider expanding it more widely.

Review of the School Guidance System

The ERO will review the money spent on guidance support in schools, which is variable and has little focus on mental health. A work programme will then be developed to address issues raised and ensure guidance funding is better used.

Read more
School Based Initiatives Fact Sheet
Press Releases from Minister Parata & Minister Ryall


Today’s young New Zealanders are tech-savvy, with the internet acting as a second home for many. Government services need to be modernised to keep up with these kids if we are going to reach the ones who need help. We’re going to:

  • Overhaul mental health-related resources to ensure they are youth friendly and technologically up to date.
  • Invest $2.7 million in internet-based E-therapy for young people.  Internationally this is already proving an effective and more accessible option for people with mild mental health issues. It has real potential to make a significant difference for young people in isolated areas.
  • Launch a Social Media Innovations Fund through a private-public partnership. It will support providers of youth services to better use social media to help young people with mental health issues, for example, through advancing the use of smart phone apps or Facebook-related programmes.

Read more
Online Initiatives Fact Sheet
Press Releases from Minister Bennett & Minister Ryall

Families and Communities

Parents, families and friends have a big role to play in identifying mental health issues in young people and helping them do something about it. When families and friends become worried about someone close to them they need access to authoritative information that helps them differentiate normal adolescent behaviour from mental health issues.

A New Contestable Fund for NGOs

We’re setting up a new fund that will allow non-government organisations to bid for funding to help them get better information out to parents, families and friends of young people.  This information will help people know what to look for and where to get help.

Truancy Workers

Teens who come into contact with truancy workers and other contractors, whose job it is to get them back on track, have very high rates of mild to moderate mental illness. We are offering training and information to all truancy workers and contractors on how to recognise mental health issues and how to get help for the kids in need.

Whānau Ora

Whānau ora is about empowering families to take responsibility for themselves. We are trialling this approach with youth mental health.  Two Whānau Ora providers with mental health expertise will work with 40 Māori and Pacific 12-19 year olds and their whānau/aiga over a two year period. This could have significant potential to improve youth mental health alongside our other initiatives.

Read more
Families and Communities Fact Sheet
Press Releases from Minister Bennett & Minister Turia


When young people with mental illness take the crucial step of seeking help within the health system, it’s important we deliver high quality, timely care. We are going to:

  • Put an additional $11.3 million into primary mental health care and expand the group this money can be used for, meaning more young people will benefit.
  • Make changes to the way Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services work in the areas of wait-times and post-discharge follow-ups. We’ll ensure a single provider is identified to provide follow-up care, put targets in place to reduce wait-times, and review how referrals are working across the system.
  • Provide some time-limited funding for existing Youth One Stop Shops – community-based centres catering for a wide range of youth needs – while the Ministry of Health works to make primary care in general more youth-friendly.
  • Review the quality of Government-funded alcohol and drug education programmes for youth to ensure they're having a positive effect.

Read more
Health Fact Sheet
Press Releases from Minister Parata & Minister Ryall

Our Youth Mental Health initiatives are designed to help build a brighter future for young people who are struggling with mental illness.

We will be consulting with young people about our initiatives.

This package will be reviewed after two years to test how it is operating and what effect it is having.