Sinead Latimer’s petititon to get counselling services into primary and intermediate schools has gained more than 955 signatures. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

A 13-year-old Kuranui College pupil’s petition to get counselling services into primary and intermediate schools has gained the backing of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors.

In May, Sinead Latimer launched a petition calling on the government to provide counselling services for pupils in New Zealand primary and intermediate schools.

She said she was pleased NZAC was backing her and she hoped the government would now take the issue more seriously.

“We need counsellors in primary and intermediate schools now if we have any chance of saving our lives.

“And I want MPs to hear my voice, and those of many others – young and old – who are pleading to help our young people earlier,” she said.

NZAC president Bev Weber said school guidance counsellors in primary and intermediate schools were long overdue.

“Kiwis are presenting with mental health issues at a younger and younger age, often as young as eight or nine years old. And they are presenting with increasingly serious issues, too.”

She said people couldn’t just ignore these problems until children were able to see a counsellor at the secondary school level as the delay could embed issues and cause longer-term consequences.

Nor could it be left to primary or intermediate teachers to deal with, she said.

“Dealing with mental health issues affecting their young charges is not a teacher’s job.”

Weber hoped Latimer’s petition would generate awareness about the issue and garner support.

Latimer’s petition has received more than 900 signatures but, in hopes to get even more support, she’s extended the petition until August 19.

More information about the petition can be found on the Parliament New Zealand website.

Where to get help

These 24/7 free phones are operated by trained counsellors who can help you talk through problems and identify ways of coping.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 [Available 24/7]

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Youthline: 0800 376 633 Need To Talk? Free Call Or Text 1737 [Available 24/7]

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