Universities New Zealand has made this submission to the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. The submission outlines a number of key points, which are both issues and opportunities for improvement.
the recognition of mental health as a public health and society-wide issue
the need for more clarity of service delivery models and investment by government in partnership with education providers into:
1. prevention and early-intervention
2. reducing waiting times, particularly in relation to community services
3. support for increased facilities and/or staff as appropriate within a framework with clearer service delivery models
4. evaluating, capturing and sharing best practice (intervention logic)
5. inter-operability and communications between agencies.
Ensure Vote: Health is adequately funded to sufficiently support mental health support for youth and adults, so that universities’ funds for teaching and research are not side-tracked. Universities are education and research institutions. Noting universities are a microcosm of society, mental health is a public health issue. All NZ university health and counselling services experience unacceptably long waiting times for students in mental distress to access professional care.
Universities are education and research institutions. The roles and responsibilities of universities regarding mental health assessment, support and treatment require clearer definition, particularly considering the Health and Safety in the Workplace Act 2015. Similarly, health professionals across the system need to understand that universities’ health services staff are professionally competent, while also noting that universities are not a suitable substitute for publicly funded and well-resourced DHB and community mental health services.
Transition from secondary education (and the NCEA system) into university requires an integrated approach from all parties (government, health and education) to ensure student success. There is international evidence that the biggest barriers to tertiary students’ academic success lie in the non-academic areas of personal, emotional and financial stress. Universities should, and do, provide pastoral and support services to address these issues. These are largely funded by compulsory student services levies and frequently provide health services that the primary health sector should fund.
There is a need for more tailored support to specifically strengthen the wellbeing of minority groups, such as LGBTQ+, Māori, Pasifika, refugees, students with disabilities, and some international groups, whose members may be more vulnerable to exclusion and the negative effects of prejudice on campuses.
Acknowledgement of the changing and complex demographics in university communities and the skills and competencies, particularly cultural, required by practitioners to operate effectively. Bicultural competence and confidence building needs to be part of any government and organisational strategy to address mental health.