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May 13, 2019 | by  | in News |
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On May 6, Minister for Health David Clark and Associate Minister for Health Julie Anne Genter launched the Wellington pilot of the government’s mental health initiative, Piki.


The face-to-face therapy programme is aimed at supporting 18 to 25-year-olds in the Wellington and Kapiti region, who are experiencing mild to moderate mental distress. The programme has an app for young people to use, and a peer support programme is being developed alongside it.


Five mental health professionals have also begun work as part of the programme at Victoria University and Massey student health services.


Pam Thorburn, Director of Student Academic Services, said in a public statement that the  university is “confident that this will have an immediate, positive impact on our students—with the ability to provide a wider range of support both on and off campus.”


“It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s a good structural pou or grounding for us to work around,” said VUWSA President Tamatha Paul.


She, with the VUWSA executive and many students, lobbied for government funding at the end of the 2018 school year, with on-campus mental health hui and The Wait is Over campaign.


“We got what we wanted essentially […] I’m fucking happy and it just reiterates in my mind the power of student activism, the power of speaking up,” Paul said.


“We wanted to keep going with the essence of The Wait is Over by bringing in students to be able to shape what we’re doing this year with the kaupapa of mental health,” said Paul.


Genter and Clark talked with Salient following the launch.


Both described Piki as a “horses for courses” programme; filling a gap in the mental health system with “a more on the ground understanding of what this generation has largely gone through,” as described by Chlöe Swarbrick, who was also at the launch.


Genter pointed out the pilot puts a focus on vulnerable groups, with the provider “very committed to delivering […] for Māori, Pacific, and Rainbow communities”.


However, she did note that while the peer support element of Piki was “great”, there was an expectation that people would be still be using traditional counselling if they needed it.


Information on the efficacy of Piki will be used in a “cycle of evaluation”. In Clark’s words, this makes Piki “a good programme becoming a better programme”.


In the meantime, Clark identified accessibility of the service as an important indicator of how effective Piki is.


So far, access appears to be good according to the Minister, with “an additional 600 people that received support over 1300counselling sessions” in the first eight weeks.


For students, the program can now either be accessed through their university, or through their local DHB. Students can sign up for the program via their GP, Student Health, by calling 1737, or on the Piki website.



Support services for mental health issues can be found below:

Visit or


Mauri Ora Student Health – 04 463 5308


Help line – Text or call 1737 to talk with a trained mental health professional


Wellington Accident & Urgent Medical Centre – 04 384 4944


Call 111 in an emergency


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