Government investment in student mental health recognised

02 Nov 2022

Minister of Health Hon Andrew Little says the funding rollout will support students mental health and wellbeing - an area that has been overlooked for a long time.

The exceptional work and commitment of our Student Health Service staff was acknowledged today by a special guest – the Minister of Health, Hon Andrew Little.

The Minister was on campus to launch the final phase of the Tertiary Student Wellbeing initiative which is being used to enhance services currently provided through Hauora Ākonga, Student Health.

The Minister acknowledged the four additional roles the package has provided for University of Waikato students – a full-time mental health nurse and part-time roles for a drug and alcohol practitioner, mental health social worker and violence prevention health promoter.

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones says the Rātonga Hauora Akonga, Student Health Service has evolved over the last five years from a GP clinic tucked away at the bottom of the campus to a highly accessible and proactive multidisciplinary practice and an integral component of the University’s wellbeing offering to students.

“This transformation has been achieved through the dedication of our wonderful Student Health Team, our community partners and, crucially, through the partnership we have developed with our students,” Professor Jones says. “Our students gave voice to the growing need in our University community and supported the introduction of our mental health nurses, violence prevention coordinator and health promotion coordinator.

“We are uniquely well placed as a tertiary education provider to meet the health and wellbeing needs of our students and in so doing support their academic success. Our student health services are integrated with our pastoral care, sport, accommodation, teaching and learning services and our Finance, HR and IT Services take care of many of the overheads that might otherwise burden a small health provider, driving better outcomes for our students..”

Minister Little says additional funding on the back of Covid and this final rollout will support students in an area that has been overlooked for a long time. “It’s the little things, lifestyle and habit tweaks - those life hacks - that make all the difference,” he said.

“Student health services have always been absolutely critical for students, and now we’ve got these additional roles to provide additional support to students of Waikato University.”

University of Waikato Student President Lushomo Thebe says while she is grateful for the additional investment and proud to be part of the University of Waikato, the last three years dealing with the Covid pandemic has shown that the tertiary sector still has a way to go to fully support student mental health.

“This extreme once in a generation environment that we had to operate in showed that while we can be flexible and adapt quickly, we also experienced profound loss - including security, safety and the feeling that we might not be okay.

“We recognise that those feelings don’t subside simply because we stop wearing masks or get back to playing sports or physically sit in lectures. It is scary out there and that is why I’m glad to be here. Because this institution and this government has recognised that there is still work to be done.”

Professor Jones says the recent and very welcome Tertiary Mental Health Funding from the Ministry of Health will allow the University to enhance health services further by funding access to additional psychology services and will build on the relationships with community partners, including Te Kohao Health and K’aute Pasifika and leverage their expertise in providing culturally led services.

“We welcome this much needed support for our students and thank the Ministry of Health for supporting the tertiary sector in this way. I am particularly grateful to the Student Health Team for the wonderful work they do, our students for their tireless advocacy and for their partnership in developing our Student Health Service and to our many partners in the Hamilton community who do so much to broaden the service we offer.”



Related news