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PM's Youth Mental Health Project ‘misses the boat’

News release: PM's Youth Mental Health Project ‘misses the boat’

The Youth Mental Health Project may have its benefits on a national level, but the NZ Association of Counsellors (NZAC) is questioning its effectiveness at the coalface.

Earlier this week, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman commended the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project following an independent evaluation.

He stated the project “shows it’s delivering improved outcomes for youth in New Zealand”.

NZAC spokesperson and school guidance counsellor Sarah Maindonald applauds the Government’s acknowledgement of NZ’s youth mental health problem.

However, she says there is abundant evidence the project does not have any real teeth at the local level.

School guidance counsellors at the coalface haven’t noticed any significant change, she says.

“We have missed the boat; if the project has been so beneficial, then why do we consistently have one of the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD?

“Children in Kaikoura don’t even have access to a school guidance counsellor – at a time when they desperately need a comprehensive support network, there isn’t one.

“If the project set out to achieve what it was established for in 2012, improving the mental health and wellbeing of youth aged 12 to 19, then the Government should read the evaluation’s recommendations.”

The Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (Superu) conducted the independent evaluation of the project.

The research unit states the project operated as an integrated programme at the national level, but less so at the local level.

Among the long list of other recommendations, the research unit declared the project should follow through on the Education Review Office’sImproving Guidance and Counselling for Students in Secondary Schools (December 2013) and Wellbeing for success: effective practice (March 2016) which were completed as part of the project.

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