Warning: This article is about youth suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

The number of young people with severe mental health problems seeking help from the public system is rising fast. But the number getting the help they need is falling.

Documents released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show more than 32,000 children and teens were referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (Camhs) last year - about 90 a day.

As the Ministry of Health's deputy director of mental health Dr Ian Soosay acknowledged New Zealand's youth suicide rate is "appalling", parents and teachers told the Herald of their desperation at getting the help they need for children suffering serious mental health conditions.


Dozens of parents said their children were turned away by Camhs because, in the words of one, they "weren't suicidal enough".

A South Island primary school principal said eight of her students were waiting for a mental health appointment, but wouldn't be seen for six months.

Today, the Herald tells the story of Max, a 13-year-old boy who was turned away by a specialist mental health service after a suicide attempt because his situation wasn't deemed serious enough.


The full Break The Silence series can be read here.

Investigation: The untold story teen suicide in the North

Max's message to New Zealand is simple: "I worry that the taxes we are paying aren't going to the places they should and we will continue to see a rise in child suicide because of this. I hope we can get Bill English to listen to us."

Almost 2000 young people like Max were rejected or quickly referred on from specialist services last year.


That number is growing.

*Some names have been changed to protect vulnerable young people.

• Support Youthline by donating via youthline.co.nz/breakthesilence.


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:


LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.