Better mental health education services needed in primary schools

May 8, 2019

 Better mental health education services needed in primary schools

A supervisor from Kidsline says that children need a better mental health education. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A representative from Kidsline says New Zealand’s mental health and suicide crisis will not end until better mental health education services are provided for young children.

Kidsline supervisor Amelia Noyes, 21, said children in New Zealand needed better support on an education level when it comes to the realities of managing mental health issues.

Ms Noyes said that on a recent visit to an Auckland primary school to present a seminar on mental health, the school’s organisers asked her to avoid “crucial” topics.

“We weren’t allowed to touch on suicide, what it is or what it means to be in that state of mind. We couldn’t even talk much about depression or anxiety.

"It’s quite weird because how are you supposed to talk about mental health if you can’t talk about the things people in New Zealand face every day?

“Especially when suicide is one of the main reasons as to why our children and teenagers are dying.”

She said children were not being taught to distinguish between having a bad day and experiencing depressive episodes.

“Once a person is finally old enough to realise that depressive thoughts are recurring they are told to go to a doctor and get diagnosed, then they are told to just have some medication. I don’t know if that’s helpful.”

Ms Noyes said she was not clear on whether certain topics regarding mental health cannot be mentioned in primary schools because of Government curriculum or social stigma.

AUT Student Andrew Hathaway, 20, said that in his experience, mental health education in primary schools was “minimal”.

“They talk about drug safety and the effects of drugs on your mental health but not mental health alone. In high school, you have counsellors available, but there is none of that in primary school.

“In primary, I definitely went through stages where I’d just feel upset and not necessarily know why, and because you are a kid you are taken less seriously or your problems aren’t considered significant.”

He said that learning how to manage these feelings were not included in his education.

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health did not respond to questions about mental health curriculum in primary schools in time for publication.

Where to find help:

  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email, or chat online
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

A gap in the market - the Kai Eatery story

A gap in the market - the Kai Eatery story

Christian Ching July 19, 2019

'I won't stop fighting till I die'

'I won't stop fighting till I die'

Irra Lee July 19, 2019

Road closures doubling commute times

Road closures doubling commute times

Hannah Kronast June 12, 2019