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Government to put $25m towards mental health services for tertiary students amid Covid-19 pandemic

The Government is set to invest $25 million towards expanding and accelerating frontline mental health and wellbeing services for tertiary students managing ongoing stresses related to Covid-19.

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The $25 million fund will see thousands of students get free mental health services. Source: 1 NEWS

“The lockdown has been hugely disruptive for students. Many of them have had to relocate and move to online learning, isolating them from their peers and tutors,” Education and Health Minister Chris Hipkins said today in a statement.

“Mental health is a priority for this Government, and it’s never been more important to ensure that our young people have access to the help they need it, when they need it."

Mr Hipkins said the funding boost will build on the "existing roll out of free primary mental health and wellbeing services" in tertiary education institutes for those aged 18 to 25, including the Piki programme in Wellington and other programmes at Auckland and Canterbury Universities.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) process, led by the Ministry of Health, will get underway from November to select services to deliver the support, with local health providers expected to work with tertiary education providers to develop a proposal to suit students' needs.

Green Party mental health spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick today called the funding boost "a huge win for students and their families."

Ms Swarbrick said the initiative "supports the commitment in our Confidence & Supply agreement between the Greens and Labour" parties to provide high quality and timely mental health services for those in need, including free counselling for people under the age of 25.

"It’s been three years of grassroots collaboration with advocates and student unions across the country to make this happen. Along the way, I’ve seen communities form, passions founded, lives changed and skills built.

"Today marks huge success, but not the end of the road. We’ll keep working until everybody, everywhere, has the support they need."

In a statement, the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA) welcomed the move, but called it "long overdue". 

"This is an overdue victory for students in Aotearoa New Zealand. Any student can tell you the myriad stressors that come with studying at the tertiary level. Free and accessible mental health services that tailored for students and young people are essential," NZUSA president Isabella Lenihan-Ikin said.

"Every person deserves free mental health support and this announcement today will go a long way to addressing the issues that tertiary students face."