Christchurch: Government announces six more mental health workers in schools

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub,

The Government has taken a small step toward an election promise.

It promised 80 mental health professionals would be assigned to primary and intermediate schools in earthquake-affected areas of Canterbury.

Today, it announced six staff members will work across 13 schools in east Christchurch and Hornby.

The Prime Minister said it's the first stage of a $28 million three-year programme.

"That's about as fast as we can go rolling this out," Ms Ardern said at the announcement in Christchurch.

The programme aims to have a health worker for every 500 primary and intermediate-age school children in the region.

"Kids will be more easily be able to ask for help and someone will be there with the skills to do just that, be it a nurse, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an occupational therapist or a counsellor," Ms Ardern said.

AUT Professor of Psychology and Public Health Max Abbott says ideally, the full fleet of the Government's promised mental health workers would be in place by the end of the year.

"I am concerned if it will take three years to phase it in," he told Newshub. "It would be better to fast-track [the programme]."

"Obviously, it's a good thing... But in hindsight, it would have been better earlier."

He said the ripple effects of the earthquakes are still being felt and people are continuing to experience trauma.

Since 2011, there has been a 73 percent increase in the number of children who need support for mental health issues in Christchurch.