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Kiwi Children Face Mental Health Problems

26 November 2007

Kiwi Children Face Mental Health Problems

The importance of good mental health in the development of young people in New Zealand is recognised in the Monitoring the Health of New Zealand Children and Young People: Indicator Handbook released today, says 0800WHATSUP Executive Director, Grant Taylor.

"We welcome the handbook and its new indicators for child mental and physical health, which will enable us to systematically track the health and well-being of New Zealand's children and young people over time." "Children are among the most marginalised of all groups in all societies," said Grant.

"This is a great step towards building an understanding of the health and well-being of New Zealand's children and young people and the factors that affect their health status." The indicators were developed with extensive collaboration by individuals and organisations from the government and non-profit sectors, academic and applied backgrounds, reflecting the widespread concern of those working with children and young people."

The frequency of calls to 0800WHATSUP, the free telephone counselling service for five to 18 year olds, is amongst the indicators. In 2006, relationship and school-related issues (including bullying and problems with peers) were the two most common reasons young people called the freephone. Those calls totalled 10,601. "The data published today gives cause for concern about life for many children in New Zealand, with some groups clearly struggling to maintain good health," says Grant.

"Although information on child health has been available previously, this handbook assembles wide-ranging information for the first time. Having all this information in one place will help build a comprehensive picture of where children's health and development needs are not being sufficiently met." Mr Taylor said that mental health is a good example of a significant health issue that has previously been under-recognised and under-resourced.

"Thousands of children and young people every year tell 0800WHATSUP that issues such as relationships with their families and their peers are of utmost concern to them, so the inclusion of mental health data for children and young people is particularly welcome.

"Mental health issues have major effects on a child's development, with an impact extending well into adulthood. It is vital to attend to these as well as to physical health needs. We see the indicators as a great asset in achieving proper recognition of all child and youth health issues. Investing in child and youth health is a national necessity."

ENDS

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