Catherine Gaffaney is a general reporter based in Auckland.

Young Kiwis seek mental health help 560,000 times in a year

Kiwi kids and teens sought help from mental health services more than 560,000 times in the past year.
Kiwi kids and teens sought help from mental health services more than 560,000 times in the past year.

Kiwi kids and teens sought help from mental health services more than 560,000 times in the past year.

Figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show Ministry of Health-supported mental health services had 562,554 contacts with Kiwis under 20 in the year to April. This included texts, phone calls and face-to-face appointments.

In the 2015 financial year, the services communicated with children and youth 576,533 times - the highest number of contacts in five years.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson believed there was an "urgent need" to investigate why a significant number of young people weren't coping.

"We should be promoting positive mental health and wellbeing strategies to all New Zealanders from a young age to help prevent mental ill health," he said.

"The work the Mental Health Foundation does is underpinned by the five ways to wellbeing (connect, give, take notice, keep learning, be active).

"We'd like to see schools enabling young people to practise these in their day-to-day lives."

Shaun Robinson said there was a lot of good work being done in the field but young people needed to know how to access the services available. Photo / File
Shaun Robinson said there was a lot of good work being done in the field but young people needed to know how to access the services available. Photo / File

The Foundation was concerned the mental health system sometimes became overloaded.

"There are too many instances of people in crisis not getting the appropriate level of timely care and support," Robinson said.

"However, there is a lot of good work in this field - sometimes it's just a matter of supporting young people and their families to learn about the services available to them and how to access them."

More funding for mental health services wasn't the sole solution, he said.

"It's a complex issue - the Government is spending more money on mental health services than ever before, so it can't simply be a question of more funding."

We'd like mindfulness to become a standard part of the school curriculum and think this will go a long way towards preventing and managing mental health problems.

The Foundation's Mindfulness in Schools programme was an example of an effective way of helping young people.

"[It] has been proven to improve resilience and wellbeing, reduce stress and increase calmness," Robinson said.

"We'd like mindfulness to become a standard part of the school curriculum and think this will go a long way towards preventing and managing mental health problems."

Ministry of Health director of mental health Dr John Crawshaw believed multiple factors, not simply an increase in incidence, had contributed to more young people seeking help.

These included a push for shorter wait times, the introduction of new services, and more awareness and access of services.

Young people with urgent mental health needs were seen on the same day in most cases, and within at least 48 hours in all cases.

Most young people with non-urgent needs would normally get an initial appointment within three weeks.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youth services: (06) 3555 906 (Palmerston North and Levin)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- NZ Herald

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