Mental Health Social Investment Initiatives

In August 2017 the Government announced a $100 million mental health social investment package. This document summarises the initiatives with a focus on prevention, early intervention and resilience-building through our schools and early learning services, as well as those that will improve access to mental health services for children and young people in need.

Summary of school and early learning initiatives

In schools and early learning services, $22 million over four years will be invested in strengthening prevention, early intervention and resilience through:

Strengthening self-regulatory skills in early childhood ($3 million)

Research shows that higher levels of self control in early childhood are closely linked to higher educational achievement and improved health and wellbeing later in life.

Children with higher levels of self control are more likely to be successful at school and socially and less likely to end up in our justice system. Emerging strategies, developed for pre-school children, aim to create lasting improvements to a child’s ability to self-regulate their behaviour and manage their emotions and impulses.

This pilot intervention will develop an approach that can be used by parents, family, whānau and early childhood teachers to support pre-school children to strengthen these skills. This approach will be piloted from mid-2018 and is expected to run for about two years.

Piloting specialist mental health services in schools ($11 million)

Evidence shows that easy to access mental health services, available on-site, leads to students having improved mental wellbeing, increased engagement in learning and higher educational achievement. Providing continuity of care across the education pathway will identify emerging mental health issues and enable mild to moderate needs to be addressed early.

This intervention will pilot the provision of specialist mental health services in selected Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako to support the early identification of potential mental health issues, and coordinate on-location access to mental health care so that students have fast, easy access to the support they need.

Communities of Learning enable children to be monitored across the 0-18 pathway. This pilot will be developed together with health and rolled out in early 2018.

The evaluation of the pilot will inform what a model might look like for provision of frontline mental services in schools and Communities of Learning across New Zealand.

Improving learning environments and building the resilience of children and young people ($8 million)

Building resilience in children and young people leads to positive social behaviour, improved mental wellbeing, and increased educational achievement.

Strategies to increase resilience and improve the wellbeing of children and young people are most effective when they are part of a whole-school focus on a positive school culture and learning environment.

The Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) School Wide programme has built some capability in this area but does not include an explicit focus on building resilience.

This project will take a universal approach to develop an initiative that improves learning environments and builds the resilience of students.

This could include supporting teaching practices across the curriculum to teach students the skills they need to be resilient, leadership strategies to create a school culture that leads to a positive social and emotional learning environment.

Developing the capability to use data and evidence to improve the learning environment will also be part of this package.

Additional well-evidenced initiatives that meet specific needs identified by the sector will be developed to supplement the universal approach.

Next steps for the schools package

We will put together a working group made up of education and health (where relevant) sector representatives, supported by the Government’s science advisors. The working group will co-design the initiatives in detail. One of the initiatives (self-regulatory skills) will be developed in conjunction with a provider and this will be done through a procurement process.

Additional primary and community mental health provision for children and young people – initiatives led by the Ministry of Health

The school and early learning initiatives will be supported by the additional primary and community mental health provision that is being developed as part of the mental health package. Health-led proposals to be co-designed with stakeholders and providers include:

Electronic HEEADSSS assessment and brief intervention for young people ($1 million)

Currently the HEEADSSS (Home, Education/Employment, Eating, Activities, Drugs and Alcohol, Sexuality, Suicide and Depression, Safety) assessments are conducted by nurses, social workers and some counsellors in schools.

These assessments form part of the youth development checks offered to all year 9 students at decile 1-3 secondary schools, and student attending Teen Parent and Alternative Education Units.

Students who present with mental health problems receive immediate brief intervention, and if needed, additional school-based support or referral to other health services is also offered.

The digitisation of HEEADSSS within the youth development check will be trialled in 15 services including Youth One Stop Shops, clinics, and alongside the pilot of frontline specialist mental health services in Communities of Learning. This is part of the schools package and Ministry of Education will be part of the trial.

Expanding and enhancing primary and community mental health and addiction care ($25 million)

Access to primary and community mental health services will be expanded and enhanced.

For children and young people, this includes an expansion of access to mental health services such as Youth One Stop Shops (and similar services) and to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

It also includes building a more diverse workforce who can support delivery of therapies and services closer to communities, including in Youth One Stop Shops and schools or Communities of Learning.

Enhanced e-therapy options for pre-teens, adolescents and young adults and package of tailored telehealth pilots ($10 million)

A package of pilots will enhance the effectiveness, responsiveness and reach of e-therapy options for pre-teens, adolescents and young adults, in particular Māori and Pacific youth.

E-therapy and distance therapy offer the potential to transform mental health services. A systematic review of computerised anxiety and depression interventions for young people found that 60 per cent of anxiety and 83 per cent of depression programmes improved at least one outcome measure.

Pilot telehealth initiatives for adolescents and adults with mild to moderate mental health needs, with a proposed focus on those who face access barriers to traditional support (e.g. rural communities); follow-up following suicide attempts; and addiction support.

Ensuring support and follow-up for those who attempt suicide ($5 million)

Pilot initiatives to ensure support and follow up for those who have attempted suicide or are at risk of taking their own lives. The detailed design of the package of initiatives will consider groups for whom alternative approaches may need to be trialled, including young people.

The follow-up support for young people who have attempted suicide or are at risk of suicide will also have beneficial impacts on those around the young person including their whanau and friends.

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