Well-being of young: a silent pandemic of psychological distress

mental health

Mental health conditions amongst New Zealand youth have doubled in the past decade.

Mental health experts are describing it as “a silent pandemic of psychological distress.”

Last month Koi Tū, a think tank and research centre at the University of Auckland, published a commentary Youth Mental Health in Aotearoa New Zealand: Greater Urgency Required.

Sir Peter Gluckman, Director of Koi Tū, says it’s unacceptable that close to a quarter of New Zealand’s youth surveyed are reportedly mentally unwell and that the issue hasn’t received the attention and action it deserves.

“We’re not talking necessarily here about classic psychiatric illness, of depression, or severe anxiety,” says Gluckman.

“We’re talking about emotional disturbances sufficient to interfere with a young person optimally developing through life with long term consequences to employment, to learning, to relationship building … to being satisfied with their lives.”

Key insights

  • There is a silent pandemic of mental morbidity amongst the global youth population which will have adverse life-course consequences
  • The last decade has seen a rapid and concerning rise in youth psychological distress and suicide rates
  • Nationally, poor mental health for youth is persistently inequitable and worsening
  • Impacts of COVID-19 on youth mental health is likely to be extensive and enduring
  • Protection and promotion of mental wellbeing for youth is now a matter of urgency.

The commentary follows the release of the preliminary findings of the Youth19 survey of 7,721 school students aged 13-19 years.

It found that 23% (29% of females and 17% of males) reporting symptoms of depression.

This is approximately twice the rate in 2012 (17% and 9% respectively).

Political parties are putting the issue of mental health strongly in focus.

But experts say a wave of anxiety and mental distress is on the way.

The services that are needed aren’t arriving fast enough.

Journalist Laura Walters has been looking into mental health in a series of articles for Newsroom.co.nz.

She told The Detail about the billions being allocated and good intentions that can’t be enacted because the personnel aren’t in place. But the political will for change is there.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

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