1 May 2018

Nelson teen urges govt to save youth mental health service

6:43 am on 1 May 2018

A Nelson teenager is leading the charge to keep what she says is a vital youth mental health service running 24 hours a day.

Zoe Palmer of Nelson has set up a petition to try and save the after-hours component of the youth mental health service run by Nelson-Marlborough Health.

Zoe Palmer of Nelson has set up a petition to try and save the after-hours component of the youth mental health service run by Nelson-Marlborough Health. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board is planning to axe the after-hours service of its Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, and move it to the adult crisis team.

Zoe Palmer, 17, who has been an outpatient of the service for the past five years, said experience tells her the time of greatest need is when alone at night.

"I have post-traumatic stress disorder from an incident when I was younger, and when I was in Year 9 everything just came to a head and my mental illness, sort of, hit me right between the eyes."

The Nelson College for Girls Year 13 student said having youth specialists respond to young people in crisis is vital.

Zoe also knows this from a survey she did.

"I got 311 responses and the majority of people said, actually, the times I feel suicidal are when the doctors offices aren't open, or when it's late at night, I'm alone and I've got no-one to talk to."

The prospect of the youth service having its after-hours component cut, prompted Zoe to start the petition that is now just a few hundred names short of 2,000.

She plans to send it to the Nelson/Marlborough DHB, Health Minister David Clark, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Some of those who have signed have also left comments:

"Mental Health issues are a priority across all age groups - get them sorted at a young age and there will be less problems in adulthood. No brainer."

"This could potentially save lives."

"Teenagers need age and stage appropriate services to be effective at a sensitive stage in their lives... One size does not fit all."

The union representing mental health nurses and allied health staff has been trying to convince the health board to stick with the status quo.

PSA Nelson-Marlborough organiser Mike Cunliffe said many within the adult mental health team are reluctant to take on the role of after hours support for youth.

"There's a significant reluctance on the part of most of the relevant clinicians - particularly the adult team to take this work on. They think it's ill-considered and arguably dangerous."

Mr Cunliffe doubts there'll be job losses from any change.

The health board said the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service and the Community Assessment Team were to meet today.

"The purpose is to get their input on the draft plan to transition to the all-ages mental health crisis service. The plan includes support and training programmes for staff, and the timeframes," a spokesperson said.

Zoe said she was not sure if the outcome of the meeting would affect the petition, but she was not concerned.

The government inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction panel meets in Nelson on Thursday, and Zoe will be there to be a voice for others who don't feel they have one.

"I've had a couple of younger students actually reach out to me and send through pages of information that they want me to read out of their own personal experience, because they're too shy, or not comfortable doing that. So I've said, 'yeah, I'll do that'."

Zoe also planned to highlight the petition to the inquiry.

The inquiry was set up in January, in response to widespread concern about mental health and addiction services, and is currently seeking public feedback on a national roadshow.

Zoe says she was overwhelmed by the support for the petition, and would love people to keep signing it.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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