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Call for responsive youth mental health services

Media release

Embargoed until 9am July 21, 2006

Call for more responsive mental health services for young adults

The Mental Health Commission has released new research into young adults’ experience of severe mental health problems and adult mental health services.

Journeys of Despair, Journeys of Hope: Young Adults Talk about Severe Mental Distress, Mental Health Services and Recovery, is based on in-depth interviews with 40 young people.

The findings show that what these young adults needed was responsive services focused on their individual needs, Commission Chair Commissioner Ruth Harrison said today.

Every year around 18,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 use New Zealand’s mental health services – they are one of the largest groups of service users.

The research, undertaken by Dr Hilary Lapsley and Dr Heather Barnett, reveals that young adults can be driven into mental health crises because they are not accessing mental health services early enough.

“Being taken to hospital caused distress for many of the study’s participants. Earlier help would mean fewer young people being taken to acute inpatient services in a state of crisis,” Ruth Harrison said.

The research suggests that people recover better if they can receive assistance in their own homes or in their communities, she said.

“A range of community-based alternatives to acute mental health services, such as home-based treatment, and recovery houses is required.

“Mental health services need to be sensitive to the needs of young adults with trauma backgrounds.”

Participants in the study talked about child abuse and other stressors leading to later mental health difficulties. They often felt that they had no one to talk to, and they thought that parents need greater awareness of children’s emotional issues.

“It was clear from talking to this group that ‘talking therapies’ helped their recovery and we believe there needs to be a greater user of these therapies,” Ruth Harrison said.

“There have been some significant improvements in mental health services over the past decade – these improvements have included a wider range of services, particularly community-based services and more people are being seen by services now than 10 years ago.

“This research suggests that the next big challenge for New Zealand is to ensure services are able to respond as soon as a person or their family indicates that they need help, rather than waiting until there is a crisis,” Ruth Harrison said.


NB: A backgrounder to the report is posted on our website,


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