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1.5 million Kiwis will have access to free mental health services

Emma Olsen
Mental Health matters
Mental Health matters  Flickr

In the hope to help Kiwis' mental health, soon many people will be able to talk with a professional at no charge.

The $1.9 billion set aside by the Government to tackle New Zealanders' mental health is continuing to be used despite COVID-19.

An additional $40m is being rolled out to increase the current 22 sites helping Kiwis for free, to over 100.

Services are being delivered in nine DHB areas by phone and video conferencing. The programme will be fully rolled out by the middle of next year, making support available to around 1.5 million Kiwis.

Health Minister David Clark said people currently using the services were reporting that being able to see someone so quickly had life-changing effects and helped them sleep better at night. 

"Many people across New Zealand will be feeling distress or anxiety about the future because of COVID-19. We want people to know that it's normal to feel this way in times of uncertainty and that there is free support available for people to talk with a professional."

Clark said this new approach was the biggest and most positive approach to mental health in decades.

"Rolling out such an ambitious new service requires an entirely new workforce. We've made sure not to lose momentum during the lockdown, and have adapted the training so that from May it can be delivered virtually."

The programme sits alongside other initiatives including online information for parents, awareness campaigns, apps, e-therapy, and tools to help people maintain their mental wellbeing. 

Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand said it was good to see an increase to access in a time when there is likely to be greater need.

"More people who need support will be able to access it in a timely manner. Our hope is that this support will help those people to get through and find ways to start to feel better and build positive wellbeing."