Rangatahi support free mental health pilot

By Talisa Kupenga

Rangatahi are set to benefit from Piki, the government's first free service for 18 to 25-year-olds who experience mild to moderate mental health distress.

The service will first become available to 10,000 in the Porirua region before being expanded to the wider Wellington area.

University Student Puawai Waller says, "The cool thing about Porirua is that I know so many rangatahi that are passionate about mental health so when I think about the launch here today I'm just really excited it's in a place where it is an issue."

Formerly known as the 'Integrated Therapies Pilot', Piki was allocated more than $10.5mil over three years under Budget 2018. 

Run by Tū Ora Compass Health, Piki aims to target those that would otherwise fall through the cracks.

Maraeroa Marae kaumatua Waata Peita says, "I hope this means they will know where to go in the first instance and then where to go after that, and so on."

Associate Minister for Health Julie-Anne Genter says those seeking help will be able to self-refer, refer through a GP, a school or employer, and also call call the government helpline 1737.

"They can get referred to different levels of service based on their needs.  That could be counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy, group therapy peer support and other types of support that are completely innovative," she says.

Piki will be rolled out in Wellington, the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa regions where Genter says there are high needs groups which include Māori and Pasifika.

Victoria University Student President Tamatha Paul says, "When you look at that age group and what kinds of demographics are suffering the most with mental health it's obvious that it's Māori and Pasifika, so we need to listen to those voices."

Te Kāea asked Health Minister David Clark if he was confident the Piki pilot was bold and brave enough to address the disproportionate numbers of Māori and Pacific peoples experiencing mental health distress. 

In December there was backlash from Māori service providers in response to the Mental Health and Addictions Report, which they categorised as another blanket approach to Māori.

Hie says, "This pilot programme, Piki, is designed to really grasp that nettle and to get to the nub of things and we will then be able to roll it out more widely."

A mild mental health problem is defined as when a person has a small number of symptoms that have a limited effect on their daily life.

A moderate mental health problem is when a person has more symptoms that can make their daily life much more difficult than usual.

Piki is expected to be in full operation across the three DHB regions by the end of the year and will be evaluated by the University of Otago.