The Government is to pour millions into new online initiatives to tackle youth mental health problems including New Zealand's woeful youth suicide rate.

It will also put more nurses into low decile secondary schools and test out an initiative targeted at Maori and Pacific youth via the Whanau Ora programme.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday launched a $62 million package over four years to improve youth mental health services which has its foundations in a report by science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman last year that highlighted the risks facing young New Zealanders.

Government mental health-related resources are to be overhauled to ensure they are "youth-friendly and technologically up to date".


That will include investigation of technology, such as Facebook, smartphone apps and online pop-ups, to reach young people, and $2.7 million in funding for computer administered "e-therapy" tailored for young people that can be carried out at home.

Sir Peter said there was increasing evidence e-therapies were as effective as face-to-face therapies in mild and moderate mental disorders.

A new Social Media Innovations Fund is to be established to help youth services make better use of social media to help young people with mental health problems.

However, the package includes $18.6 million over the next four years to put more nurses and specially trained youth workers into low decile secondary schools. It will lift the number of students covered from 18,000 to 56,000.

A further $12 million will be spent on expanding the Positive Behaviour School-Wide programme into all secondary schools.

Mr Key said a new Whanau Ora initiative would be tested.

Two Whanau Ora providers with mental health expertise will receive $480,000 to work intensively with 40 Maori and Pacific 12-19-year-olds and their whanau or aiga over a two-year period.

"By doing this, we can see whether Whanau Ora's focus on a whole family rather than an individual delivers better results for Maori and Pacific kids with mental illness."

Mr Key also announced an additional $11.3 million for the primary mental health care budget and an expansion of the group that money could be used for.

But Labour's associate health spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said while any improvements in mental health services were a positive thing the Government was overlooking the real drivers of youth mental health problems.

"It comes back down to families. They're under a lot of pressure at the moment, there aren't many jobs, people are working multiple jobs because wages are so low and that has a massive impact.

"If we're really serious about tackling the problem we'd be tackling the drivers, the Government would be looking at poverty, not just cleaning up the mess."


Additional spending on youth mental health over the next four years:

* Vote Health - $33m
* Vote Education - $16m
* Vote Social Development - $12.2m.