The government has just demonstrated its lack of understanding

Thursday, 30 May 2019

The government has just demonstrated its lack of understanding when it comes to enhancing the mental wellbeing of secondary school students, the NZ Association of Counsellors said.

President, Bev Weber, said all the evidence points to the fact that school students trust and prefer talking to school guidance counsellors if and when they are dealing with emotional wellness and mental wellbeing issues.

“So why is the government placing more nurses in schools are part of its Budget programme of reaching out to an additional 5,600 secondary school students?”

Weber said school guidance counsellors are trained mental health professionals who operate in all secondary schools.

A major ERO report on school counselling surveyed over 700 students from different schools across the country.

The report showed that when it came to mental health, the clear preference from students was to talk to their school counsellor above anyone else.

“This is a preference expressed directly from the people at the heart of the issue, yet this government ignores that advice, thinking it knows best.”

Weber says school guidance counsellors are in huge demand and under ever-increasing pressures because of the growing number of students presenting with emotional wellness issues – and the increasingly serious nature of those issues.

Weber said guidance counsellors in some secondary schools are dealing with over 1,000 students and managing issues ranging from drug and alcohol abuse and family violence to suicidal behaviours.

“I would have thought the prudent approach was to invest in a resource base that has already proven its worth, but I suppose it’s hard to label that approach ‘transformational’.  It’s more ‘practical and sensible’ and that doesn’t attract media headlines.”

She acknowledged the Budget includes a $455 million investment in new frontline services.

“But if they take the same approach to those services as they’ve taken to enhancing services for secondary school students I really worry about the effectiveness of that investment.

“New Zealand dealing with mental health and emotional wellness issues need targeted, trained and qualified support, and counsellors are the right people for that job, particularly when working with people with mild to moderate issues.”