13 Aug 2020

Mental health study on young people shows they don't feel heard

6:35 pm on 13 August 2020

A new study is shedding light on the state of mental health and wellbeing among New Zealand youth - which is continuing to deteriorate.

A group of school children in uniform sit on the edge of a skateboard bowl

Photo: 123RF

The Youth19 Rangatahi smart study co-led by Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington shows that while more than two-thirds of high school-aged New Zealanders reported good wellbeing, an increasing number of students reported high levels of distress.

About 23 percent reported significant symptoms of depression and that has almost doubled for many groups since 2012.

Symptoms are higher among female students, Māori, Pasifika and Asian students, those in lower-income communities and those from sexual and gender minority groups.

Study co-lead Dr Theresa 'Terry' Fleming from the university's Faculty of Health said the evidence suggested a worsening emotional and mental wellbeing among New Zealand teens in the last seven years, but no single cause was responsible for this increase in distress.

"Important factors are increased social media, increased loneliness, the impact of poverty, discrimination, or harmful environments, social pressures and the impact of serious worries about the future - from climate change to jobs and housing security."

The survey also looked at suicide attempts among this age group and found that attempts had increased, particularly for males.

Around one-fifth of students reported that they had difficulty getting help for feeling bad or having a hard time in the past year.

They also reported that support when they had problems and addressing climate change and issues that affect their future were critical.

Participants in the survey were asked to identify the biggest problems, and what they think should change to support young people in New Zealand.

Students reported that adults listening to young people and involving them in decisions would make a difference. They also reported that support when they had problems and addressing climate change and issues that affect their future were critical.

University of Auckland associate professor and study co-lead Terryann Clark said that a sense of hope for the future was really important for young people.

"We have to be visionary and brave and make some big system changes if we want to address equity and make a difference for all of our rangatahi and future generations," she said.

The findings are part of the Youth19 Rangatahi smart study, the latest in the Youth2000 survey series. The Youth2000 surveys have run since 2001, with over 36,000 New Zealand high school students surveyed to date.

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 or text HELP to 4357

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) or text 4202

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 (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm 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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