Health Minister Visits AUT to Announce New Funding for Student Mental Health

By David Williams (he/him)

Health Minister Andrew Little has announced a $3.8 million package for student mental health support at Auckland universities.


He announced the package during a visit to AUT’s city campus, alongside Green Party mental health spokesperson and Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick.


Little said the funding would target the 80,000 tertiary students in Tāmaki Makaurau.


“We know that Covid has been disruptive to everybody, but when you’re studying too, and when you rely on contact with your classmates and your lecturers, and just doing the social things too.”


Meanwhile, MP Chlöe Swarbrick recalled a visit to AUT’s Student Hub in 2018. While talking to students about their mental health and the support they needed, she said a student had told her that they didn’t feel they could afford to make mistakes.


“That is something that I have reflected on many times over the past several years,” she said.


“The mental health and addiction enquiry showed us that all of us are born with biological predispositions towards potential, and it is our environment that can turn those things up a notch or down a notch.”


Outgoing AUT Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack, speaking in front of members of AUT’s Are you okay? service, outlined the services the university already had in place for student mental health.


He said the $3.8 million would help the university expand the services that are already in place.


The newly-announced funding package comes from the 2020 budget where $25 million was set aside to support the mental health of tertiary students.


The Labour government has been previously criticised for the slow rollout of tertiary mental health support.


In a recent Newsroom article, New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) president Andrew Lessells described the $2 million allocated in 2020 as a paltry amount.


“There is a huge problem with mental health in our tertiary institutions and there isn’t the support available currently to really deal with that.”


When asked if he thought the $3.8 million would be enough to help students in Auckland, Little said universities had a level of services already, and that the new package was just topping that up.


“Looking at services like 'RUOK - Are you okay?' - it’s very peer led and that is very much where the future lies. So, I am confident that this is a good start. This will continue to roll out in subsequent years,” he said.