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Barnardos Releases The Top Wellbeing Issues Affecting Children And Young People For Mental Health Awareness Week

Barnardos 0800 What’s Up child and youth helpline has released their findings on the top three issues affecting children and young people based on 2020 data to help raise awareness about the problems young people are facing.

More than 12,700 callers and chatters reached out to NZ’s dedicated child and youth helpline last year, with the majority of calls linked to more serious mental health issues.

Last year 44% of young people reached out due to psychological and emotional problems, which includes conversations around depression, anxiety, anger, grief, loss, loneliness, deliberate self-harm and suicide. This is up from 21% in 2019.

This significant rise in more serious complex calls and chats is partially a reflection of COVID-19 and it may also reflect the challenge of being able to access mental health support in a timely way.

Last year, What’s Up received 131 calls from young people who were an imminent risk to their safety from themselves or others needing intervention by the police, Oranga Tamariki or mental health services.

The second biggest reason for contacting What’s Up was worries due to relationships, at 30% of all contacts, up from 26% the year before. The main relationship challenge was around family relationships in 2020, as opposed to peer relationships.

The third largest topic is related to issues at school, particularly bullying, with 50% of all calls falling in this category.

Barnardos Chief Executive Mike Munnelly, says resources like 0800 What’s Up are important because they help normalise having a kōrero about mental wellbeing and everyday issues affecting the lives of children.

“The reasons why children and young people call What’s Up underline the importance of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme, ‘ Take Time to Kōrero – Mā Te Kōrero Ka Ora. Services like 0800 What’s Up are free, easily accessible , immediately responsive, and support young people’s ability to deal with their current situation, when they need someone to talk to. They can be confident if they take time to kōrero, they will be heard. Responding to young people’s needs early can also help in preventing development of significant mental health issues in the future.”

The other major trend in 2020 was the significant rise in chats as opposed to calls. 0800 What’s Up launched the chat counselling service in 2014 and since then has received over, 25,000 live chats. Over 7000 chats were received in 2020 alone, up 49% from 2019.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Barnardos 0800 What’s Up is partnering with MediaWorks to survey children and teens about what they think is the number one thing adults can do when they are feeling down.

Children and teens can call on 0800 942 8787 or chat on whatsup.co.nz and tell us their answer and we’ll share that across MediaWorks radio stations throughout the week.

Barnardos wants to provide our children and teens with an opportunity to voice their needs so parents and caregivers can be there for them, when they need someone to kōrero with.


  1. 0800 What’s Up took it’s first call in 2001 and has answered 1.6 million calls since it opened. The helpline is a child and youth confidential phone and chat counselling service for children from the ages of 5 to 19 staffed by trained counsellors . The service operates from 12pm onwards Monday to Friday and 3pm onwards on the weekends.
  2. Children and young people are encouraged to call and chat with the trained counsellors about any issue no matter how small or big. 0800 What’s Up’s approach to counselling is to empower children and young people to make their own choices by guiding them through a constructive thought and decision-making process, rather than instructing them on what to do.
  3. Barnardos is the largest Aotearoa national children’s charitable NGO, working every day towards the vision of making a positive difference to children and young people in need. Barnardos provides social support services to the most vulnerable children and whānau in our communities — including those affected by complex, intergenerational challenges such as family harm, neglect, and abuse addiction, mental health issues and the impacts of poverty. Barnardos 0800 What’s Up is one of the ways Barnardos helps children of Aotearoa to grow their emotional literacy and resilience so they are empowered to overcome the challenges that life throws at them.

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