31 October 2018
Counselling use by students at New Zealand’s universities has increased by nearly 25 per cent since 2015, in data released by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) today.
“This data is proving what students around the country already know too well; that their services are under increasing pressure and access to counselling services is becoming increasingly difficult,” says National President Jonathan Gee.
In 2017, 13,137 individual students used counselling services at New Zealand’s universities. This is a 24.66% increase in individual students using counselling services since 2015 (10,538 students). The data does not include Lincoln University, which does not hold data on the number of individual students using their counselling services.
The data, acquired through the Official Information Act, also shows the situation on individual campuses. At Massey University, there has been a 69.14% increase in the number of individual students using counselling services since 2015 (2015: 1633, 2016: 1807 2017: 2762).
Massey University Students’ Association (MUSA) President Ngahuia Kirton says, “an increase in individual students means more students feel comfortable to access help, but it’s important that the help is there. We can see that the situation is clearly getting more difficult, and action must be taken to mitigate this.”
Meanwhile, Victoria University of Wellington has had the highest percentage of enrolled students using counselling services in the last three years consecutively (2015: 9.6% of Victoria’s student population, 2016: 9.6%, 2017: 9.7%).
The Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) President Marlon Drake says that the under-resourcing of the service is being felt by students.
“The data paints a picture of what our students are feeling on campus. We’re lucky we have so much empathy in our community, but we have students choosing not to see a counsellor because they do not want to take somebody else’s session.”
“Our community is looking to the Government for an answer. We’re working with the university and doing the best we can, but ultimately we need support from our country’s leadership to deal with an issue of public health.”
NZUSA is calling on Health Minister David Clark to provide public funding for student mental health services. Currently, services on campus are 100% paid for through compulsory student services fees paid for by students themselves.
“Currently, students who are under financial pressure are having to pay for their own mental health. This Government has committed to free counselling for under 25 year olds, so it’s reasonable for students to expect this to become a reality.” says Gee.