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Young people say suicide and mental health biggest issues

Youthline encourages youth voices to be front and centre as part of the Mental Health Awareness Week conversation and decisions about mental health funding.

“We know that young people are disproportionately represented in our suicide statistics in this country,” says Youthline CEO Shae Ronald.

“It is time to listen to young people when it comes to their mental health.”

Youthline recently commissioned Colmar Brunton to undertake a nationally representative survey of young people across Aotearoa New Zealand, asking them what matters to them, what struggles they are facing, and how they recommend we tackle New Zealand’s youth suicide rate.

The survey found the biggest issues faced by youth today relates to mental health with 83% citing mental health issues, depression and anxiety. Compared to 2016 when the last survey was done, significantly more young people view suicide as a big issue for their generation – 56%, up 8%.

The young people told us that to address New Zealand’s high youth suicide rate we need to remove the stigma of talking about mental health, provide better support in schools and empower youth through education to manage stress and look after their mental health.

“Getting rid of the stigma around not being okay, which generates the cycle of not being able to talk to the right people and not expressing your experience to the people around you” said one respondent.

“Empowering young people from a young age with the skills to cope with life stresses rather than waiting until mental health problems develop into suicidal tendencies” said another.

As young people around the world strike against climate inaction, the report also highlights how significant the environment and sustainability are for young people ranking 4th behind mental health issues, depression and suicide.

“Young people are demonstrating incredible leadership here in New Zealand and across the world, at Youthline we believe in that leadership and we are here to support young people to be heard” says Ronald.

There was also a strong theme around reducing pressure on young people, from education, social media, the expectation to succeed and securing employment. The pressures and stress youth are feeling today are akin to the experiences of adults but they may not yet have been able to develop the skills to cope.

The themes that have come through in the survey mirror the increased complexity we are managing in our service delivery. From our Helpline, 2 out of 5 texts received relate to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide and 1 out of 5 specifically around suicide, a 40% increase on 4 years ago. Last year we managed over 273,410 contacts to our Helpline. Through the Helpline, face to face counselling, youth mentoring and educational programmes Youthline helped 34,542 individual young people last year.

About Youthline

Youthline has been supporting young people and working with communities for 50 years. Initially set up as a telephone counselling helpline service, for youth and run by youth, it is today a first point of contact for young people in New Zealand to access a wide range of youth development and support services across the country. Youthline is by far the most recognised youth support organisation with 71% familiar with Youthline alone.

The Youthline Helpline costs over $1.1m per year to operate of which $90,000 is from government funding. The balance of over $1m needs to be fundraised each and every year in what is an increasingly challenging fundraising climate.

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