A positive plan to help students access mental health support in schools has been blocked by Labor and three independent MP’s in state parliament this week.
The Nationals and Liberals private members Mental Health (Counsellors) Amendment Bill would have expanded Victorian legislation to give school students access to Counsellors in educational settings.
Speaking on the Bill in state parliament The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region and Shadow Assistant Minister for Education, Melina Bath said recent statistics demonstrate the depth of the youth mental health crisis in Victoria.
The demand for Kids Helpline services in Victoria has sky-rocketed during the pandemic, with a significant increase in presentations to hospital emergency departments for mental health reasons each week.
Ms Bath said it is evident many young people need immediate access to mental health support.
“Changing the Mental Health Act 2014 to include Counsellors would have unlocked 2000 professionals to help our students.
“Under the existing state legislation, registered Counsellors are not recognised as ‘mental health practitioners’ in Victoria and are unable to provide mental health support in our schools.
“Many students have urgent counselling needs that are not being met.”
“These qualified Counsellors would be a professional and wise ear for our young people to unpack the confusion of the pandemic and its multiple pressures.”
Ms Bath in regional Victoria the demand for mental health practitioners far outstrips supply – the waitlist to access a psychologist can be many months.
“It is not for the want of trying, many of our country schools struggle to fill vacancies for a range of professions including occupational therapists, social workers and mental health workers.
“By removing this barrier, skilled and qualified Counsellors would be more readily accessible to support student welfare and wellbeing.
“It is highly disappointing that Labor and three Independent MP’s voted to deny students access to needed mental health support in regional Victoria.”