New mental health initiatives announced

The Government has announced a new social investment fund for mental health. The fund represent a new social investment approach to preventing and responding to mental disorders in New Zealand. This means looking at the whole of peoples’ lives and the factors that can affect their mental wellbeing.  It also puts increased focus on building resilience earlier before problems become acute.

Two of the 17 new initiatives that directly relate to ECE are:

  • Strengthening self-regulatory skills in early childhoodThis initiative would seek a provider to deliver a pilot to deliver and evaluate an intervention focused on developing internal self-regulatory skills for 3 and 4 year olds in home and/or ECE settings. A pilot approach is needed because, while some promising age-appropriate interventions to improve self-control in pre-school age children are developing, further evidence of effectiveness is needed before a rollout is advisable. It is expected that a proposed intervention would not only show the ability to improve self-control in young children, but also at a relatively low cost per child and before the cost of adverse outcomes is incurred.
    Low levels of self-control appear to be relatively common in early childhood. The Growing Up in New Zealand Study found that just over 25% of children aged four and a half lacked self-control when assessed using a standard test. Higher levels of self-control have been found to predict many important outcomes that extend into adulthood. After accounting for socioeconomic status and IQ, individual differences in children’s self-control can predict physical and mental health, criminal behaviour, and wealth in adulthood, as well as better educational outcomes.
  • Strongest Families pilot
    This investment will support a pilot based on the Canadian programme ‘Strongest Families’ that delivers CBT via telephone conferences for whānau with children experiencing anxiety or moderate mental health or behavioural problems. The programme teaches whānau skills to better manage their child’s behavioural problems, and teaches children how to manage their symptoms of anxiety. It is proposed to test and evaluate the initiative with up to 1,000 children aged between 3-12 and their whānau. The Canadian programme on which this pilot is based has been evaluated to improve behaviour modification (approximately 25% of participants successfully managed behavioural problems to extent they avoided diagnosis), educational outcomes and whānau relationships/functioning; and to reduce treatment barriers, strengthen therapeutic alliance and result in higher self-disclosure than usual treatment. It is expected that these impacts will lead to improved future outcomes for the children involved (including being better able to cope with their symptoms, reduced acute/unplanned care, reduced likelihood of offending and improved employment outcomes) as well as their whānau (including creating safer and supportive home environments, improved health literacy and improved mental wellbeing, resulting in a reduction of the intergenerational impacts of poor mental health).

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