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ChatBus counselling service rolls out to Southland

Going the extra mile: the vehicle which supports Southland youngsters. Photo: ChatBus South

The ChatBus mobile counselling service now has a bus in Southland and children are learning how to deal with anxiety, anger, relationships and grief.

They’re even passing on this knowledge to others.

 The ChatBus South Trust chairman, Jamin Lietze, says if children can learn coping strategies when they are young, they’ll be better equipped to deal with challenges as they grow up.

Southland has a relatively high suicide rate, which he says has a big impact on local families.

The ChatBus South Counsellor, Miles Pask, is a trained teacher and professional counsellor whose confidential sessions at five Southland primary schools often involve drawing and music therapy.

One child who was struggling with anger learned an activity called Imagination Station, which she uses extensively and has taught to a friend who has anger issues.

“For them, this is now a life skill they can use to let go of strong emotions that are sticking with them,” ChatBus South’s first half-year report says.

Another youngster, whose parent was terminally-ill, created an interactive drawing about memories, comforts and ways to cope or keep calm.

Based on this picture, together with Miles, the child made a song which was later played at the parent’s funeral.

A student affected by trauma worked with Miles to write and produce his own song and this helped the child process and let go of fear.

ChatBus South Counsellor, Miles Pask, with George the monkey around his neck, helps children feel comfortable to share what’s on their minds. Photo: ChatBus South

Yet another child is overcoming anxiety and focusing on the strengths in her life after an activity involving crafting a strengths/relationships bracelet.

Jamin says students are often happy to share what they’ve made and this helps them talk with their peers or teachers about strategies they’ve learned.

The art or songs are great discussion cues and reminders.

It is an easier way for the kids to talk with others by sharing the song, or picture they’ve drawn.”


Began in Dunedin

ChatBus began in Dunedin in 2008 and now works in 36 primary and intermediate schools in greater Dunedin, Milton and the Clutha district.

The service has proved so effective that a new bus was launched in Southland in early February, visiting the Otatara, Myross Bush, Waihopai, Tisbury and Salford primary schools.

In its first two terms, it worked with 154 students aged between five and eleven, usually in individual sessions.

Jamin, who is also the Principal of Myross Bush School, says a couple of years ago, Invercargill principals realised there was an increase in behavioural issues across their schools.

Some students were quietly anxious and withdrew, others were loud and hit and hurt others. The principals understood that trauma or other factors were causing this behaviour and youngsters weren’t able to cope or regulate their emotions.

This was happening with children as young as five, he says.

ChatBus visits each school for one day a week.

As well as much-needed child counselling being on-site and easily accessible to students, parents don’t need to transport their offspring.

“We’re really stoked,” Jamin says.

However, the need is so great that the mobile counselling service could easily visit the larger schools for two days a week. One bus isn’t enough.

“Our goal is to expand and offer ChatBus to other Southland schools.”

While the service is free to children and their families, the schools each contribute $5000 a year. Donations, grants and sponsorship are also vital.

Jamin says the ChatBus South charitable trust is busy fund-raising and invites businesses to become long-term partners.

“I hope that together we could work on this to address social and emotional needs.”

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For further information:

ChatBus Facebook and website

One of our previous ChatBus stories

If you’d like to talk about any issues raised in this article, text or free call 1737 or free call Youthline 0800 376 633, or Samaritans, 0800 726 666


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1 Comment

  • Another great group of Encouraging news items to life our souls __ Love the ‘chat bus’… the creative aspects of helping children understand their overwhelm .. God bless you guys_ outstanding !!

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