Government announces first-ever nationwide funding of mental health services for rainbow youth

The Government has announced $4 million in funding targeted specifically towards mental health services for rainbow youth.
The Government has announced $4 million in funding targeted specifically towards mental health services for rainbow youth. Photo credit: File

For the first time, the Government has announced millions of dollars in targeted nationwide funding to services providing mental health support to rainbow young people. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the announcement will be filling an election promise to dish out $4 million specifically for rainbow mental wellbeing initiatives aimed at youth.

"The Government is committed to improving mental health outcomes for children and young people in our rainbow communities.

"Young people in the rainbow community are at greater risk of being discriminated against, bullied and harassed. As a result, they have poorer physical and mental health and addiction outcomes and are at greater risk of suicide. We need to change that."

She says the funding is long overdue, adding that participants in the Counting Ourselves survey who were trans or non-binary were twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year. 

Health Minister Andrew Little says the funding comes as part of Budget 2019's $455 million allocated towards "expanding access and choice of primary mental health and addiction services".

The $4 million package will be spread over four years with $800,000 allocated to topping up the Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund and $3.2 million going to rainbow mental health services. 

"It will take a range of actions to better help young people in distress but guaranteeing funding to the mental health services they use is an important step towards improving the wellbeing of our Rainbow communities," says Ardern.

The Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund - which will see $800,000 of funding - was established to commemorate Kiwis who were convicted for homosexual acts before the law was changed in 1996.

It focuses on supporting projects, activities, and organisations to improve mental health outcomes for future generations of rainbow communities. 

"To date, seven initiatives have received support from the Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund," says Little.

"Including the Be There campaign that provides resources to family of rainbow young people and education modules for GPs to support them to provide appropriate care to transgender and non-binary young people." 

Little says the funding is the "latest milestone" in a "comprehensive programme" aimed at better supporting the mental wellbeing of youth and at-risk communities.

"I am looking forward to making more announcements in the coming weeks," he adds.