Counselling Aotearoa February 2021
The search begins for primary and secondary school guidance counsellors
The Ministry of Education (MOE) is seeking counselling providers able to support primary and secondary school students beginning Term 2 2021, as promised in the Government’s $75.7 million announcement last year.
Releasing its request for proposals (RFP), MOE is seeking evidence based therapeutic interventions to address the emotional, behavioural and wellbeing needs of tamariki.
“The aim is to recognise and respond to emerging concerns with early intervention addressing needs before they become more serious,” the request states.
“For those with more serious concerns it is important to ensure services are linked with appropriate support and agencies, including child and mental health services as needed.
“This procurement is not limited to one-on-one talking therapy. We are open to a broad range of counselling interventions, as long as suppliers are able to demonstrate that interventions are evidence-based and developmentally appropriate.”
It is hoped that the government’s package of initiatives across the education sector will support the wellbeing of learners, their family and whānau, and school staff following COVID-19.
Such initiatives will provide short-term support for immediate response to the pandemic; and longer-term initiatives which will strengthen curriculum delivery, support positive whole of school, early childhood education environments and improve access to wellbeing services for those who need it.
According to the RFP, counselling services will be procured and delivered to primary and secondary students in multiple regions of New Zealand.
While MOE is seeking bids from existing community organisations/counselling providers to begin counselling services by Term 2 2021, it will also award contracts to multiple providers in different locations.
Importantly is who the MOE is looking for; providers must have the capacity, capability, and experience to deliver counselling services to students.
Additionally, ideal candidates need to have experience building effective relationships with organisations and bodies who provide local delivered services such as schools, medical practices and wider local services.
Contracts will commence in May 2021 with an initial term of 2 years and seven months. There will be an optional extension of one year, and the maximum term of the contract can last until December 2024.
“This is a unique opportunity to be a part of the Ministry’s work to support mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in the context of COVID-19.”
For more details, click here.
Bursaries grow our Māori mental health workforce
Over 120 Māori students who have received bursaries for their mental health studies were welcomed at two-day hui at Massey University in Auckland on 12 February.
“We are committed to improving mental health and addiction outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand,” said Toni Gutschlag, Acting Deputy Director-General, Mental Health and Addiction.
“We want to make sure that Māori can be supported by Māori, so we need to make sure we build the Māori workforce and encourage working in mental health.
“Māori are disproportionately affected by mental health and addiction issues in Aotearoa New Zealand, so we need to ensure Māori perspectives and experience are built into the mental health system – growing the Māori workforce is an important part of achieving that.”
Funding for an additional 46 bursaries is available from this year for the Te Rau Puawai programme.
This means there will be 126 places available on the programme each year.
The funding for this programme is part of the Budget 19 investment into improving mental health and addiction outcomes.
Te Rau Puawai is a successful Māori mental health workforce development programme run by Massey University over the last 20 years.
With an average pass rate of 95 per cent, the programme has achieved academic success for its students, but more importantly has had a far-reaching impact on supporting tangata whaiora (people seeking wellness) across the country.
“The recipe for success of this programme is that it doesn’t just provide financial support. There is a team who also provide active student support, framed within a Māori context,” said Ms Gutschlag.
Professor Te Kani Kingi, Chair of the Te Rau Puawai Board, shares the same view.
“From the outside people might think the main reason for the programme’s success is the financial support, but over time we have realised that’s not the most important thing. It’s really the pastoral care that we are able to provide in a Māori way.”
The programme covers a wide variety of professionals from mental health nurses to clinical psychologists and social workers.
Study can be undertaken via distance learning, meaning it offers flexible learning opportunities for both recent school leavers and those wishing to enter a new field later in their working life.
Te Rau Puawai’s combination of bursaries and academic support within a kaupapa Māori framework was established by Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie, to address the shortfall of Māori professionals in the mental health and addiction sector.
“We acknowledge the work of Sir Mason; the success of the Te Rau Puawai programme in growing the Māori mental health and addiction workforce is a credit to his leadership,” said Ms Gutschlag.
Enhanced benefits extended
One of New Zealand’s foremost specialists in individual and workplace health insurance schemes is extending its benefits, first introduced during COVID-19, to counsellors.
Understanding that that a lot of people are still struggling due to the impacts of the pandemic – affecting people’s physical and mental health – UniMed is offering 50 per cent of actual costs incurred up to $60 a visit.
This particular benefit is for a maximum of three consultations, per person named on the policy, and will apply until June 2021.
Counsellors may also be eligible for the flu vaccine benefit your employer hasn’t already paid for one and you don’t meet the criteria for free government funding.
To be eligible for said benefits, counsellors must be registered under either the NZ Christian Counsellors Association, NZ Association of Counsellors, or Drug and Alcohol Practitioner’s Association of Aotearoa-NZ.
To claim for any of these benefits, a copy of the invoice needs to be provided along with a completed claim form.
“For those who have lost part or all of your income during this time, please talk to [UniMed] about what premium relief options may be available to you,” the company states.
“There may be ways to reduce your premiums by reducing cover or increasing excesses. We are here to help, so please talk to us about the range of options available.”
Reflections of 2020, looking ahead to 2021’s opportunities
2020 brought with it a myriad of uncertainties for many Kiwis at home and abroad. And while those 12 months have ended, 2021 bears many of the same obstacles that require critical planning to overcome.
NZ Association of Counsellors President Christine Macfarlane reflects on 2020 with trepidation and appreciation for her fellow counsellors.
Despite the challenges, she says NZAC members – and the counselling profession as a whole – performed admirably throughout.
“The adaptability and flexibility of counsellors before, during and after our country’s COVID-19 lockdown to continue to quickly and efficiently provide services to people via phone, online platforms and messenger just shows their commitment to their clients.
“And I would like to recognise our counsellors for doing such a great job; many of whom provided support for people who were experiencing increased stress and anxiety due to international and local situations.
“I think it’s also important to acknowledge that you did this while dealing with those similar issues. At no other time have we experienced this, where the profession navigates the same challenges as our clients, while providing a high-quality service.”
Christine commends counsellors’ actions during that time – and still to this day – as it emphasises their professionalism and ethical approach to supporting clients.
However, she issues a warning; the increasing number of clients presenting with more complex mental wellbeing issues is not likely to stop just because 2020 has ended.
Therefore, there is an ever-increasing need for mental health support from government. And the Association should lead in that responsibility to supplement and support the current workforce, Christine says.
“Which is why we’re prioritising resources for a workforce survey, which we will soon undertake determine the future of the profession and clients’ needs.
“We’re also consulting with both the Ministry of Education and Health to gather appropriate information to help us further grow and progress counselling for decades to come.”
While COVID-19 health precautions saw an uptick in online interactions, including NZAC annual registrations, Christine says the Association’s website has been challenging.
Overcoming some of its obstacles has meant that NZAC now as a workplan to develop the website into a more user-friendly platform, thanks to member feedback, Christine says.
“The first thing you’ll see is some changes to the CPD area, and we’re looking at being more responsive to your difficulties via the website.
“This includes the development of the new role, Professional Development Manager. Niccy Fraser has been hired in this role to undertake how we grow professional development for counsellors across the country in a variety of ways.”
And finally, the results of the Association’s Te Tiriti Audit – being conducted by Veronica Tawhai – will be presented at the next Executive meeting later this month.
Christine is excited to share the results and what the next steps might be entail with members, which she says will be to initiate a review of NZAC’s organisational structure.
Greater urgency required for youth mental health
There is a silent pandemic of mental morbidity amongst the global youth population which will have adverse life course consequences.
That is just one key insight from the September 2020 report, written by Rochelle Menzies, Sir Peter Gluckman, and Richie Poulton, decrying global statistics about youth mental health.
Titled Youth Mental Health Aotearoa New Zealand: Greater Urgency Required, the report outlines what it describes as the “global mental health pandemic”.
And should the need for prevention and intervention continue to go ignored, it will result in significant harm to the overall wellbeing of our youth.
“Global statistics about youth mental health and suicide over the last decade reveal a disturbing trend,” the report states.
“They showed a marked increase in psychological distress for this age group, perhaps reflecting the rapidly increasing magnitude of the challenges faced by young people currently.
“As the pandemic of psychological distress among youth rises at an alarming rate, the underlying causes and the need for prevention and intervention remains largely ignored.”
The report states there is a seemingly unappreciated urgency around this issue, which is now largely lost amidst the global COVID-19 crisis.
And while the pandemic has almost certainly exacerbated this issue, this glaring oversight must be acknowledged, understood and addressed, it adds.
Unfortunately, the situation in Aotearoa New Zealand is particularly concerning, with mental morbidity rates more than doubling over the last two decades, for both males and females.
More specifically, the national prevalence of mental health morbidity was 5 per cent, rising to 14.5 per cent in 2018/19 according to the Ministry of Health’s Online Survey conducted in 2020.
The national teenage (15-19 years) suicide rates are among the highest in the OECD, and 2013 findings from the Youth12 survey of secondary school students reported 24 per cent of all respondents had intentionally self-harmed in the preceding 12 months.
“The Youth2000 project has undertaken repeated cross-sectional studies to produce snapshots of youth populations. Data for 2001, 2007, 2012 and 2019 surveys show persistent concerning and rising self-reported rates for depression and suicidality.
“Preliminary findings from the Youth19 survey (2019 wave of the series) of 7,721 school students (year 9-13) aged 13-19 years, paint an especially bleak picture of youth mental health and wellbeing, with only 69 per cent reporting good emotional wellbeing.
“Of the total cohort, 23 per cent (29 per cent of females and 17 per cent of males) report having symptoms of depression, which is almost twice the rate found in 2012 (17 per cent and 9 per cent respectively).
“Similarly, 6 per cent of the 2019 cohort (7.3 per cent of females and 5 per cent of males) report they attempted suicide in the previous 12 months, which for males is twice the rate (2.2 per cent reported in 2012.”
The report summarises that the rapid rise in mental health concerns among young people over the last decade cannot be ignored any longer.
It adds that there is an urgent need to identify youth-specific risk and protective factors to inform effective prevention strategies that can be implemented from early childhood.
“A greater emphasis on mental wellbeing promotion will require collaboration with young persons to co-design youth-specific and culturally responsive solutions for better mental health outcomes.
“During these times of unprecedented uncertainty and disruption, such targeted efforts will promote greater wellbeing and brighter futures for our increasingly vulnerable youth population.”
The read the report in full here.