The New Zealand Association of Counsellors says if the government is serious about wanting to improve the country’s suicide rates it needs to provide more help for vulnerable young people.
The NZAC says there is a shortage of school counsellors and also thousands of calls to help lines are going unanswered because of a lack of resources.
“The student counsellor ratio needs to be improved so vulnerable teenagers can get help as soon as they need it. We know that many distressed teens have to wait for some weeks to get to see a counsellor because there are not enough of them in schools.
“If the government really wants to change suicide rates then it needs to provide youth friendly services where young people can access help on their own terms either with a school counsellor or a phone line right when they need it,” says NZAC spokesperson Sarah Maindonald.
She says young people need autonomy in accessing help and like to take the lead in sorting out their own issues.
“This is an alternative to the medical model which is sometimes problem-focussed and looks at models of ‘treatment’ which sometimes alienate students.”
Ms Maindonald says it is important to catch problems early and for many students their school counsellor is their first port of call.
“But we know that in many schools there are just too many students needing help from just one counsellor. The issue of student/counsellor ratios needs to be looked at urgently. If a student has to wait for help they tend to give up and that can have serious consequences.
“And we know that many overseas countries are now looking at putting counsellors in primary schools as well as secondary schools. This is something New Zealand should consider doing too if the mental wellbeing of young people is really a priority.”no