PM unveils Youth Mental Health package

  • John Key
Prime Minister

Prime Minister John Key today unveiled a package of initiatives to ensure young people with mental health problems receive better, faster, and more modern help.

In a speech in Wellington, Mr Key said the $62 million package was the result of intensive work led by his own department, following an important report from Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman.

“I’m proud the National-led Government has taken several steps to improve the opportunities available to young people in this country over the past three years,” Mr Key said.

“More than anyone else, young people will determine the future shape and prosperity of New Zealand.

“But one in five of our young people will experience some form of mental health problem during the crucial time that they are transitioning to becoming an adult.

“Even mild mental illness can have a wide impact on a young person’s life and on those around them. When the worst happens and a teenager takes their own life, those left behind have a heavy burden to bear.

“I know we can do better for young people with mental illness and that’s why I have personally driven the package of initiatives I am announcing today.”

The Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health package works in four different places:

  • In schools
  • Online
  • In families and communities, and
  • In the health system.

Mr Key said nurses and specially-trained youth workers will be added to lower-decile schools to help identify students who have a mental illness and get them appropriate care. The Positive Behaviour School Wide programme will also be rolled out across all secondary schools to improve the environment young people are learning in.

In return, Mr Key said schools will be asked to take more responsibility for the wellbeing of their students.

“The Education Review Office will begin measuring how well schools are doing when it comes to student wellbeing, and over time we expect them to show improvements in areas like bullying,” Mr Key said.

The Youth Mental Health package also includes several initiatives to modernise the way government reaches mentally ill young people.

“We need to lift our game to keep up with these kids, who are quickly adopting new technology like Smartphones or using Twitter and Facebook,” Mr Key said.

Along with an overhaul of existing mental health resources, new ideas will be sought through a Social Media Innovations Fund to keep providers of youth services technologically up to date.

The package also contains several other initiatives including a lift in funding for primary mental health care, new wait-time targets for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and a new Whānau Ora approach.

“Parents can often find it hard to tell the difference between normal teenage behaviour and mild to moderate mental illness,” Mr Key said.

“To help parents, families and friends we are also going to fund NGOs to get more information out to them about what to look for and where to get help.”

“The Youth Mental Health package fills gaps in our current system and builds on the good work our mental health professionals are already doing in this area.

“We’ll be reviewing all of the initiatives in two years’ time to ensure we are hitting the mark and helping our young people.”