Relationships causing teens grief

By Sonya Bateson

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Richard Wigelsworth has seen increasing numbers of students seek his services. Photo / John Borren
Richard Wigelsworth has seen increasing numbers of students seek his services. Photo / John Borren

Relationship issues are the biggest reason teens seek counselling services, says a Tauranga guidance counsellor.

Whether they have issues with parents, a falling out with friends or a fight with a boyfriend or girlfriend, relationships are the main reason why teens visit Mount Maunganui College guidance counsellor Richard Wigelsworth's office.

Mr Wigelsworth has seen an increase in the number of students taking advantage of school counselling services, which he put down to a number of reasons, including a sound staff referral programme and increasing social acceptance of seeking help.

"Within the school we have a good pastoral care system. We encourage staff to keep an eye out on students because staff see them day to day.

"If they can see someone is upset or they notice a change in their behaviour, they will refer the person on to us."

Students were encouraged by counsellors and staff to talk to someone if they had any problems no matter how major or minor, Mr Wigelsworth said.

He said relationship issues were at the "top of the list" for students seeking help, whether it was about a falling out with their peers or issues with a staff member or parent.

Otumoetai College guidance counsellor Alison Crawford also said most students sought her help for relationship issues.

"On a day-to-day basis, we have relationship issues, issues between friends. On more of a weekly basis, we have referrals for high-risk students such as those who talk about suicide. We get those referrals from friends or family members or sometimes the student will refer themselves if they are feeling depressed."

Self-referrals were often from students seeking help dealing with blended families or parents divorcing.

Mrs Crawford said the view of counselling in New Zealand was changing and was more accepted.

She said there were programmes in the college that encouraged students to talk to someone if they needed help such as peer mentoring programmes.

The Education Review Office (ERO) released a report earlier this month analysing mental health services schools around the country. The report found more secondary school students were seeking help and with increasingly complex problems.

Evaluation services manager Stephanie Greaney said counselling staff in most schools had the professional ability to help students but their increasing workload made it difficult for them to fully respond. The complex nature of some of the students' problems had compounded the situation.

ERO recommended that the Ministry of Education look at the formula used to fund schools for guidance staffing.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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