Referrals for mental health care are increasing in Whanganui as the Mental Health Foundation says today's youth face challenges like no generation in history.

There were 3422 referrals in 2015, compared with 3250 the previous year and 3189 in 2013, according Whanganui District Health Board figures.

Referrals were highest among those aged 20 to 29, with 857 in that age group referred last year.

Total mental health expenditure among Whanganui DHB providers and non-governmental organisations was $25,782,642 last financial year, similar to the previous two years, though it was forecast to increase to $26,193,227 for the current financial year.


Meanwhile, the average number of mental health staff at the DHB dropped slightly over the past three years, from 139.6 full-time equivalent staff in the 2013 to 2014 financial year to 136.7 last year.

The DHB is treating questions - about what might be behind the increase in referrals and if it was satisfied with funding and staffing for mental health services - as an Official Information Act request. The act allows bodies up to 20 working days to respond to questions.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said the Ministry of Health had confirmed demand on youth and adult mental health services had grown by 70 per cent in the past 10 years.

"We can only speculate as to what is causing the increase - some research in this area is needed."

Part of the rise could probably be due to the work done in encouraging people to ask for help when they were experiencing mental health problems, he said.

"However, research has demonstrated that our young people are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, and this is resulting in increased levels of depression, anxiety, behavioural problems, and lowered self-esteem and confidence.

"They are facing huge challenges that no generation in history has had to overcome. The economic and social environment they are growing up in is changing rapidly."

Mr Robinson said young people were also being bombarded by a stream of negative information from online and traditional media which suggested the world was unsafe and uncertain.

"It's a stressful time for all of us, but especially young people who are simultaneously facing the age-old struggles of how to find their place in the world."

And too many faced issues such as child poverty, sexual abuse, domestic violence and the pressures of the housing crisis.

"It seems timely to ask whether we're doing enough to decrease the prevalence of mental health problems by improving the wellbeing of our young people and increasing their capacity to overcome difficult times."

In an emergency: call 111

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828
865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available

Youthline: 0800 376 633, or text
234 (available 24/7) or

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757
(available 24/7)

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
(weekdays 11am to 5pm)

NetSafe: 0508 NETSAFE (0508
638 723)