Aria Gardiner, 18, has written 'A Call For Care', an open letter to the Government on behalf of the young people of Kāpiti concerning funding for Kāpiti Youth Support.
"I'm so sorry, but there is a waitlist."
Words no young person, parent, caregiver, or anyone wants to hear when they need support. They convince themselves that they need help, building up the courage to ask, only to get shut down.
I am writing this open letter to the Government and to ministers leading the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy — calling for an immediate investment in Kāpiti Youth Support (KYS) so that no young person ever has to be on a waitlist.
This letter is also a desperate cry for help. Help for essential services designed specifically for, and with, young people in Kāpiti. Services our young people need access to, now.
In Kāpiti we are seeing up close a local example of a national issue. Following Covid-19, demand for youth mental health services skyrocketed by 300 per cent. I'm going to get you to read that again for impact: a 300 per cent increase in demand for youth mental health services.
Despite this, funding for medical and mental health services has stayed roughly the same for 15 years. These figures simply do not add up. As a young person in this community, I can't understand how the Government would let this happen, because I am not just talking about figures ... I am talking about people's lives. People who are struggling, people who need help.
In a post-Covid world, life is hard for many young people. Around me I am seeing teens who are dealing with a mass increase in anxiety, trying to complete their school work while their families are struggling. Others are taking up jobs to help their families get by.
I want to ask you, do you know what it's like not to have a stable place to live when you're in lockdown? Do you know what it is like to be hapū and living in an abusive home but having nowhere else to go? Do you know what it is like to have to pick up extra jobs to support your family while also staying in school?
These are examples of young people KYS help on a daily basis — our communities are suffering and so are the services that are here to help them. Young people are under pressure and young people's health services are under pressure.
How can we say, as a country, we are prioritising young people's mental health when they are facing at least a four month wait? When a young person is feeling alone, confused and in need of professional help, that is four months too long.
KYS and other Youth One Stop Shops around the country need a funding strategy that supports them directly — after all, they are the services on the frontline, meeting the needs of young people, everyday.
I am a young person living in Kāpiti and I have seen firsthand KYS change young people's lives. This service has always been there for me and I want it to continue to be there for others.
It's in all of our interests for young people to have accessible, well-funded medical and mental health services. This will help create stronger families and communities. The young people of Aotearoa today are our leaders of tomorrow.
Now it is up to the Government to answer the call and do what is needed. Your youth are calling, so please answer the damn phone.
A petition has been launched directed to the Minister of Health, Andrew Little. To view or sign the petition click here.