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Are our kids all right? – Mental health and young people

Are our kids all right? – Mental health and young people


Monday 11 August

International Youth Day is tomorrow – a day to celebrate our rangatahi and the enormous contribution they provide in making the world a better place. This year’s theme is Youth and Mental Health, and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is taking this opportunity to acknowledge not only the achievements of young people, but the significant challenges they face.

“We’re very pleased that the UN has chosen mental health as the theme for International Youth Day,” Judi Clements, MHF Chief Executive, says. “Most young New Zealanders do experience positive wellbeing, but our youth face more challenges growing up today than they did in the past, and it’s important to acknowledge that.”

Research conducted by the MHF as part of the Like Minds, Like Mine programme indicates that many young people with a mental illness experience discrimination – name-calling, bullying, belittling attitudes, and/or exclusion – from family, whānau and peers.

“We need to listen to our rangatahi and guide them to access the support and help that is available when they are in distress,” Ms Clements says.

There are many programmes in place to help support young people to navigate life’s challenges. The success of the e-therapy programme SPARX shows that technology is a powerful tool in supporting young people’s wellbeing.

The MHF runs a range of programmes and projects to support the mental health of young people. These include Common Ground (a project to help parents, family and friends to support the young people in their lives to manage challenges and enjoy positive mental health and wellbeing), and Pink Shirt Day (a bullying awareness campaign).

Our Resource and Information Service is freely available to all New Zealanders wanting information about mental health and wellbeing, as well as which supports and services are available to help them and their loved ones.


Key statistics about New Zealand youth mental health:

The Youth ’12 report showed:
• 92% of students feel okay, satisfied, or very happy with their lives
• 38% of female students and 23% of male students feel depressed sometimes, with 16% of females and 9% male reporting symptoms of depression that were likely to have a significant impact on daily life
• 29% of female students and 18% of male students reported deliberately self-harming in the last 12 months
• 21% of female students and 10% of male students had thought about suicide in the last 12 months, with 6% of females and 2% of males making suicide attempts.
The first wave of results from Victoria University of Wellington’s Youth and Wellbeing study (2013) found:
• 39% of youth reported being bullied in the past two months
• Most students felt happy in their family or whānau life and felt as though they were cared for (e.g., three quarters reported that they feel very close to their family or whānau). Additionally, most students (80%) had an adult outside of their family or whānau they could talk to if they were having a problem
• The majority of students appeared to have healthy self-esteem and felt good about themselves; 80% reported feeling satisfied with themselves, 84% agreed that they have a number of good qualities, and 77% reported that they do take a positive attitude towards themselves.
Research from the Prime Minister’s Mental Health Project showed:
• While most young people are resilient, 20% of young people are likely to experience a mental health issue
• Depression and anxiety are quite wide-spread: one in five young New Zealanders will be affected by depression by the age of 18; almost one in five meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder by age 19.

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