Government announces $25 million funding boost so tertiary students can receive free mental health care

300,000 tertiary students will benefit from free mental healthcare.
300,000 tertiary students will benefit from free mental healthcare. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Government will invest $25 million to boost free mental health support for tertiary students experiencing ongoing stresses related to COVID-19.

It's expected 300,000 tertiary students will benefit from the initiative which aims to make mental health services more accessible.

Education and Health Minister, Chris Hipkins says the COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional stress for many students.

In a press release on Saturday Hipkins acknowledged the difficulty of transitioning to working from home, as well as the stress caused by isolation. 

"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," he says.

"It's never been more important to ensure that our young people have access to the help they need when they need it," he says.

The initiative will begin in November with a Request for Proposals process led by the Ministry of Health, to assign health services to tertiary providers.

The Ministry of Health expects students will notice an increase in services and choices by 2021.

"Local health providers will need to work with tertiary education providers to develop a proposal that best suits the needs of their student community," Hipkins says.

The initiative will continue to expand over the next four years and will support students who are experiencing mild to moderate distress. 

It will include therapy sessions, peer support, cultural support and social support which will be offered face to face or digitally.

The rollout of services will prioritise areas where students currently have limited access to mental healthcare and areas where there is indication of a higher need for support.

Green Party mental health spokesperson Chloe Swarbrick says the initiative is a 'huge win' for students.

"It's been three years of grassroots collaboration with advocates and student unions across the country to make this happen," Swarbrick says.

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