New data showing an increase in long wait times for youth patients needing mental health help has been labelled "appalling" by a local suicide prevention expert.
Lakes District Health Board information received through an Official Information Act request shows 25 per cent of youth patients from October 2014 to September last year waited longer than eight weeks for a second face-to-face appointment.
This was an increase from 16 per cent in 2012/2013 and 18 per cent in 2013/2014.
The total number of patients seen were 462 in 2012/2013, 422 in 2013/2014 and 468 in 2014/2015. This is the most recent data available.
When asked what caused the rise in wait times for second face-to-face contact, Lakes DHB responded, "We are currently undertaking a review of our processes across the Mental Health Services teams to streamline the client flows."
Te Runanga o Ngati Pikiao Trust's suicide prevention project leader Michael Naera said the figures were not good enough.
"Any patient, young or old, that has to wait longer than eight weeks for their second appointment is unacceptable. It's appalling.
"These wait times are excruciating for everyone involved and a lot of the comments we receive is that when they finally do seek help, they are turning away because of the wait times.
"Ultimately the pressure falls to the whanau who have to use their limited capability to deal with a person who needs professional help. For someone fighting depression, eight weeks is far too long," Mr Naera said.
"Something needs to change. Not necessarily by giving the area more funding - it needs a total revamp."
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said while DHB data varied, nationally 74 per cent of child and youth mental health clients were waiting less than eight weeks for their second face-to-face appointment.
"This number has been relatively stable over the past four years.
"The Government expects DHBs to see new urgent cases within 48 hours, 80 per cent of non-urgent new cases within three weeks, and 95 per cent within eight weeks. Nationally 91 per cent of cases are seen in less than eight weeks."
He noted the Government had increased mental health and addiction services funding from $1.1 billion in 2008/09 to more than $1.4 billion for 2015/16.
"But there's always more to do, and mental health remains a priority for the Government."
A crisis that should never have happened:
A Rotorua family know first hand the damage of inadequate care and support for a young person struggling with their mental health.
"Our experience with the DHB has been over the course of two years so we're not new to the system."
A family member, who wished to remain anonymous to protect the patient, said they first approached the DHB when the patient was younger than 16.
"There were follow up appointments but often they were cancelled or rescheduled. For us it was the ongoing management of the case that caused issues. Eventually, without adequate help, we found ourselves dealing with a young person in a critical situation.
"It was alarming, we felt desperate, anxious, fearful and overwhelmed because we had identified the problem early but it still reached a crisis level."
The family member did not want to go into details about the crisis but said it was not something young people were equipped to deal with properly.
The family member said help should come first, rather than families having to wait for specialists.
She said the experience had been taxing on the whole family.
"It's an isolating feeling but we know we are not the only family to experience this. The concern for us is that there seems to be no improvement. The patients need to come first. When the DHB start making changes there, then we may start to see improvements across the board."
Where to get help
- In an emergency: Call 111.
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7).
- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7).
- Youthline: 0800 376 633, or text 234 (available 24/7) or firstname.lastname@example.org or live chat (between 7pm and 11pm).
- Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7).
- Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm).
- Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7).
- Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155 (weekdays 11am to 5pm).
- NetSafe: 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723), www.theorb.org.nz