Funding of $10.49 million over three years for the Integrated Therapies pilot programme was first announced in this year’s Budget and is part of the agreement between Labour and the Greens.

New Zealand Association of Counsellors president Bev Weber says the pilot of free counselling for 18-25-year-olds is exactly what New Zealanders are “crying out for”.

Kyle MacDonald, psychotherapist and campaigner behind the Free Counselling Open Submission to the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, said the pilot was a lifesaving service and couldn’t come too soon. “Nationwide, we continue to hear horror stories of long wait lists, and of people being unable to afford private therapy, meaning many with mild to moderate depression and anxiety are simply going untreated.”

Health Minister Dr David Clark and Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter announced today that the Government was seeking innovative bids for the pilot with the pilot’s location – and what services will be delivered – to be determined by who is chosen by the Ministry of Health as the successful provider.

“Too many of our young people have been left without support when they need it. We need to intervene early to ensure problems don’t become tragedies,” says Genter.

“There’s increasing international evidence that psychological therapies can help improve the mental health of young people.”

With New Zealand’s staggering rates of youth suicide, the NZAC applauds the pilot initiative, based on a Green party election policy, and was encouraging professional counselling service providers to get involved.

Clark said it was known that young people with mild to moderate mental health issues need help and three-quarters of long-term mental illnesses start by 25 years of age. “We need to make a difference to those rangatahi who aren’t currently accessing mental health services for a variety of reasons – because they can’t afford them, the services aren’t appropriate, or because their needs aren’t recognised as severe enough.”

Genter said the pilot would also help gather information on what services work for young New Zealanders –including young Māori, young people with disabilities, young Pacific people and young rainbow New Zealanders.

The pilot is to be based on an adaption of the UK’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.

The tender closes on August 17.

If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234


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