President Responds to Student Concerns About Changes to the Counselling Service

VUWSA is aware of the concerns which have been raised around changes to the University’s counselling booking system.

Student health and wellbeing is extremely important to us, and access to appropriate decent mental health services is a big part of this. So we can understand why if you heard about these changes, and weren’t provided with context about how they could affect you and other students accessing these services, you might be alarmed.

VUWSA has been in conversations with the counselling team since before the changes were brought in, to ensure that any new system is going to be beneficial for students. However because of the confused response from students about these changes we want to clarify how this affects the counselling service.

What are the changes?

→ Students are now required to fill in an online booking form in order to get an appointment..

Counselling services hopes this form will mean requests are processed faster and cut down the waiting list for appointments. It also means the counsellors are better informed about a student's situation to improve these session times for the student.

VUWSA has asked for an option be added to the top of the form saying “I do not have the ability to fill out this form right now, and need to organise my appointment in another way.”. The service has taken this on board and will be adding it.

So far, the form has meant more students are approaching the service for help, not less.

What hasn’t changed?

→ The session limit.

Changes to the system do not include a six session limit. We have been assured that the University is not using a six session maximum as a concrete rule, and that students’ needs will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

If you feel that you have unfairly been declined the support you require, contact us at advocate@vuwsa.org.nz.

What are the wider challenges?

New Zealand’s mental health system is in crisis. The People’s Mental Health Report published in the last few weeks illustrates a system in dire need of a review and funding increase. We have been advocating, and will continue to advocate for a focus on mental health services on campus. However the pressures on student counselling are in large part driven by a complete lack of mental health support in the general public health system. What looks like an under-resourced service is in fact an overloaded one.

What are we doing about it?

We have organised a forum open for students to come and ask questions and raise concerns with University Managers about this issue.

10-11am, Monday 8th May, SU217

If you want to come but cannot make it, we will be streaming the forum on our Facebook page. If you have any thoughts or questions that need to be answered before Monday, don’t hesitate to email me - president@vuwsa.org.nz.

Mental health is an important issue to me, and I know from personal experience how much of an impact it can have on life as a student. I can assure you that we are doing our utmost to help drive culture change that will make Victoria a less stressful place to be a student, and to ensure adequate services are provided on campus.