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0800 What’s Up Plugs Vital Counselling Gap As Need Spikes

The vital role of counselling for school-aged children is under the spotlight in a new survey from OfficeMax New Zealand and Barnardos.

The survey of staff within New Zealand schools found that 60 per cent have seen an increase in students requesting counselling services in 2023. Staff in schools are managing so many needs within the school community, which may explain why nearly half (49%) were not aware of free counselling services available outside of the school network.

While nearly 70 per cent of those that responded said their school has access to on-site or visiting counsellors, 38 per cent said those services do not adequately meet the needs of students.

Anecdotally, respondents suggested a vast and complex array of factors were contributing to the increase, matching insights from Barnardos’ helpline, 0800 What’s Up. These include:

  • Feelings of isolation and anxiety post COVID-19
  • Home stresses, family and parent issues
  • Exposure to violence, drugs and criminal activity – including at home
  • Poverty and hunger
  • Social media usage, and cyber-bullying.

Positively, many responses suggested that there is a greater awareness that talking about problems and challenges ‘is a good thing’, which may explain the increase for counselling need.

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The barriers to accessing counselling included a hesitancy from students who want to remain anonymous or do not want to speak face-to-face (32%), and a lack of counselling staff (34%).

The survey results have inspired OfficeMax to leverage its vast network of partner schools to drive awareness of 0800 What’s Up, New Zealand’s child and youth counselling helpline and webchat service, which it has supported since 2014.

The free service, run by Barnardos, is the only helpline for 5-19 year-olds in Aotearoa which employs trained counsellors and offers regular counselling with the same counsellor. Counsellors help callers to find their own solutions and build their problem-solving skills for the future.

OfficeMax will be issuing a new toolkit, which includes 0800 What’s Up posters, web banners and other digital assets on its website and direct to almost 2,000 schools to help raise awareness.

OfficeMax Managing Director, Kevin Obern, says, “We want to make sure that this vital service can reach the children and young people who need it most. We now know that awareness is a big part of that, so we’re doing what we can with this practical and easy-to-use toolkit to help teachers support their students. If it contributes to one more young person reaching out for help, then it’s worth it,” he says.

“Sometimes children and young people need someone outside their family and peer group to talk to, and that’s why our 0800 What’s Up service exists. No issue is too small or too big for our trained counsellors. Young people should reach out if they need to be heard, especially amidst the huge amount of pressure their whānau is under because of the rising cost of living, the extreme weather events earlier this year, the long -term impact of COVID-19 or the lack of housing,” says Jo Harrison, Barnardos’ General Manager Child and Family Services.

“It’s fantastic to see from the survey that 60 per cent of school staff would encourage 0800 What’s Up for their students to use,” Jo adds.

Services like 0800 What’s Up are absolutely essential for connecting our young people to trained counsellors who can rapidly provide the necessary support.

Notes to editors:

  • OfficeMax surveyed 335 people via its education network who work in primarily leadership or teaching roles in New Zealand primary, intermediate, secondary and composite schools from across the country.

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