Increased chaplaincy services needed at University

Delphis Learning

A sharp increase in demand for mental health support has helped spur the University of Otago’s push to improve student support services.

Counselling and chaplaincy services, especially for the university’s burgeoning Maori student population are in particular need of extra support.

The costs of the additional services will be met from student fees. To achieve this, the University Council has agreed to increase the 2022 compulsory student services fees by three percent.

University chief operating officer Stephen Willis says since the second half of last year there has been a sharp rise in demand for mental health and wellbeing services.

Maori students in particular, will have additional support services provided through the additional funding.

The need for extra financial support for this group is mainly because since 2018 Maori student numbers at the unioversity have increased bu 22 percent.

“The university’s chaplaincy service has seen an increased need for emotional, pastoral and spiritual support among students, as well as the overall increase in the number of students,” Willis says.

In addition, he says as awareness of the support chaplaincy can provide has increased, more students seeking appointments, he notes.

Another initiative the University Council will help with is to increase the hours provided for the paid Maori counsellor.

Willis says the increase in hours is mainly because Maori student numbers have increased by 22 percent since 2018.

The university has also embraced a new telehealth service to help reduce wait times for support.

University Student Health Services head Margaret Perley says it partnered with telehealth counselling service provider Whakarongorau Aotearoa to provide an online mental health service, Puawaitanga.

The service provides students with free individual counselling, wherever they are in New Zealand. It has helped reduce wait times for students wanting to access services, Perley says.

One of the world’s strong supporters of people suffering from mental health issues is Pope Francis.

Last week on World Mental Health Day he invited the large crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Angelus to pray for them, especially for the victims of suicide.

“Today, on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, I would like, to remember our brothers and sisters affected by mental disorders and also the victims, often young, of suicide,” he prayed.

“Let us pray for them and for their families, so that they are not left alone or discriminated against, but welcomed and supported.”


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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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