Mental health top of youth concerns - council survey

3:18 pm on 24 August 2023

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

Youth voice: The Hurunui Youth Council has been advocating for young people in the district.

Youth voice: The Hurunui Youth Council has been advocating for young people in the district. Photo: Local Democracy Reporting/ Supplied - Hurunui District Council

Young people in Canterbury's Hurunui District have named mental health as the biggest issue they face, and a council staff member said home learning was now more common due to anxiety.

The survey by Hurunui District Council's youth council found 50 percent of youth who responded thought of mental health and well-being as the number one issue they faced.

Education, health, climate change and racism were also named as prominent issues for the young people.

Speaking at last week's Hurunui District Council strategy and community meeting, council youth development officer Jo Sherwood said the recent survey also found that education, healthcare, racism, ''having our voice heard'' and climate change were also of concern to young people.

There were some variations through the district, for example in the Amuri area respondents rated racism equally with mental health and well-being as the most pressing issue.

In Cheviot, climate change rated higher compared to the rest of the district, while in Amberley education was a major concern.

Addressing the concerns about mental health, Sherwood said there were growing numbers of young people in some form of home learning, due in part to anxiety.

''It is a combination of things. We've had Covid and the school strikes, so if your only way of connection is getting on the school bus and going to school, and that's taken away, it can be unsettling.

''Online learning works well for some young people, but not so well for others.

''And we know that schools don't have enough support, so it is about how we can collectively advocate for them.''

As of 11 May, there were 49 young people in home education in the district with an education exemption, and 67 studying through distance learning through Te Kura (Correspondence School), with 16 of them also enrolled at local area schools.

''This indicates a significant number of Hurunui young people that are home schooled,'' Sherwood said.

''We are looking at how we can connect with them through the home school network to promote the youth programme provision through their channels.''

Council staff were also looking at how they could support volunteers who worked with young people, she said, particularly on ethics training and how to have conversations about mental health, such as when a young person ''mentions suicide''.

''Young people's language around mental health is different to other generations,'' she said.

''They talk about it in an open, normalised way.''

The youth council had been engaging with local social service agency Together Hurunui and this has led to Well-being North Canterbury agreeing to do a workshop with the youth council to explore further options for supporting mental health needs.

Hurunui Mayor Marie Black said she was impressed by the young people on the youth council: ''I think this has been an amazing year for our youth and seeing their leadership develop is just tremendous.''

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