$6m boost for student health and counselling

University of Auckland students will benefit following a $6 million funding boost for mental health services announced by the Prime Minister earlier this month.

The increased funds will enable the University to continue to provide supplementary support to students who are enrolled in the University Health and Counselling Service (UHCS).

Since June last year, UHCS has been participating in a pilot giving access to a Health Improvement Practitioner and a Health Coach to help provide support to patients in real time. This has meant students haven’t had to wait for a referral to receive additional services.

The Government’s recent announcement will move the University from the pilot phase into 'business as usual', with the new funding supporting the two positions on an on-going basis.

UHCS will be reviewing the success of the pilot and considering how the University can further add to this resource in the future.

Students’ health and wellbeing is of absolute
importance to the University.

Melanie Shaw, General Manager of Student Health and Counselling at the University said that this is a timely announcement, given Mental Health Awareness Week.

“We know how important it is to be able to provide support at the time when it is most needed. The pilot programme and now the increased and ongoing funding allows us to really improve outcomes for our patients,” she said.

The University of Auckland Student Health and Counselling Service is constantly reviewing the ways it provides support for students. A range of counselling services are on offer, from the traditional face-to-face support through to e-therapy and phone counselling which is offered seven days a week, 9am to 9pm.

 “Students’ health and wellbeing is of absolute importance to the University,” said Melanie. “Our intention is always to support those most in need.”

Note from Universities New Zealand

Universities are not directly funded for counselling or student support, but provide these services out of student services levies. NZ universities saw a 25 percent increase in investment in counselling and support services between 2013 and 2018 (from $14.9m annually to $18.6m)—about a 20 percent increase per student.

Students do face challenges during their time at university. The key university demographic of 18 to 25 year-olds experience significant changes as they leave school and establish their place in a changing and complex world — within the university environment environment and in the wider education sector and workforce.

While most students manage the transition from a school environment to university well and have a positive experience, some may come to university with pre-existing mental health conditions and some may need extra support to manage.

Universities are noticing a sustained and definite increase in those reporting mental distress, possibly because of several factors: relentless global change and uncertainty (eg, employment, technology, financial and housing conditions); a reduction in the stigma around reporting; a demographic and culture more attuned to seeking help; time pressures with more students in paid work while studying; and  increased numbers of students.

Universities can give trained mental health support but cannot provide secondary-style services for people with serious and chronic mental health conditions. Such students must be referred on for specialist and family support.

A sector project is just under way, co-ordinated by Universities New Zealand, that aims to provide realistic strategies for reducing the incidence of mental distress issues among university students and staff. As a starting point, the project plans to look at what universities can expect by way of support from District Health Boards. Service levels are variable across different DHBs and there is an opportunity to work with the Ministry of Health to drive more consistency. 

Developing good practice frameworks, learning from what is already working well in universities, is  another important component of the project. 

Each university has its own range of services it provides to students and staff, and its own relationship with local DHBs. UNZ, and university staff, are working to ensure as much consistency as possible in levels of good practice across the sector.

Media contact

Lisa Finucane | Media & Communications Manager
09 923 7698
Mob: 021677216