The New Zealand Herald reports that Arden made the policy announcement in Christchurch, vowing to fund an extra 80 mental health professionals over the next three years who will work in all public primary and intermediate schools.
It would result in there being a full-time mental health professional for every 500 school children in Canterbury.
“I know that the kids of Canterbury still bear the mental scars of the earthquakes and that the Government sadly hasn’t done what’s needed,” Ardern said.
“Since 2011, there’s been a 73 per cent increase in children and young people going to mental health clinics.
“There’s a need for action as we know that waiting times for children under 12 for mental health services in Christchurch have been deteriorating.”
Labour says there are currently just seven full-time Canterbury District Health Board staff in its school mental health team, covering more than 136 schools in the region.
Ardern pledged to invest an extra $10 million in a range of mental health professionals, including psychologists and psychotherapists as well as social workers, registered nurses and community mental health workers.
“These new teams will complement Labour’s plan to roll out school based health services in all public secondary schools and create eight primary mental health care teams in GP practises including Canterbury,” she said.
“We can afford this by boosting health funding by $8 billion and restore the $2.3 billion that this Government has failed to provide for demographic pressures and inflation.
“It’s time we did a lot more to help the young people of Christchurch and Kaikoura through the terrible legacy of the earthquakes. We’ll make sure in these critical early years, they get all the help they need to allow them to grow up as happy, healthy Kiwis.”