Call for doubling of counsellor numbers in schools

  • 10/09/2017

This article deals with mental health problems, including attempted suicide.

Sunday marks world Suicide Prevention Day, and the Association of Counsellors is using it to push for more mental health support in schools.

Currently, Kiwi schools have a ratio of around one counsellor per 800 students. President Bev Weber says it should be doubled to one counsellor for every 400 students.

"That's going to be beneficial to the students, because it means the school guidance counsellor is able to work more in-depth with that number of children - rather than trying to spread themselves thinly to help everybody."

She wants New Zealanders to start treating their mental health the same as their physical health.

"We visit the GP for a physical check-up. What's wrong with getting a check-up of our emotional state?

"Prevention is better than cure and that applies to both physical ailments and emotional and mental wellness problems."

Labour has promised nurses in every secondary school, should it form the next Government.

It would mean any student could visit a professional and then be referred to youth health services, mental health services or their own doctor.

"Evidence around existing services shows where students had more time with on-site health professionals there was significantly less depression and suicide risk," Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said in May.

"Depression and suicide risk were up to two-thirds lower in schools with comprehensive health services. Early intervention works."

Currently, healthcare is only Government-funded for high schools decile 3 and lower, teen parent units and alternative education facilities.

Ms Weber says it's not just the young who struggle with access to mental health services however.

"We have always had a 'she'll be right' or 'harden up' attitude in New Zealand. This is prevalent for our elderly, who have always lived by this mantra. The elderly go through changes in their health and bottle up their feelings so they don't burden their families.

"This attitude is also being passed on to our youth. Along with their changing social environment, this is a toxic combination."

New Zealand has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. More than 600 have killed themselves in the past year.


If you wish to talk to someone about mental illness or domestic violence, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, the Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757 or the National Telehealth Service on 1737.