Mental health and wellbeing of youth in our communities

Three young people sitting on a couch in a garage. Source: Health Promotion Agency website.Being a teenager can sometimes feel like a roller coaster. It’s important to know the difference between mental health issues and life’s flat spots – and when to get support or treatment early.

Checking on our mental wellbeing is helpful during times of changes or challenges. Having good mental health allows us to:

  • Develop a sense of who we are including our identities, values and beliefs;
  • Cope with strong emotions;
  • Work out how to get on with the people around us;
  • Get by at school, work and home;
  • Have respect for ourselves and others;
  • Express what we’re thinking and how we’re feeling; and
  • Accept responsibility for our own thoughts and actions.

Depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts may be caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Stressful events like the break-up of parents, or loss of a loved one;
  • A family history of depression;
  • Relationship break-ups or problems with friends;
  • Learning difficulties; or
  • Social isolation such as having no friends or whānau that you feel connected to.

What you can do if you are stuck feeling bad

There are heaps of ways you can start tackling feeling bad, overwhelmed or just plain sad. A lot of them are pretty easy too, like getting some fresh air and sleeping better.

It’s OK to ask for help – especially before your stress or anxiety escalates into something more serious.

Talk to someone you trust like a family member, your doctor or school counsellor.

You can also ask questions or chat anonymously about your feelings with one of many support services just for young people.

Coordinated action required to meet young people’s mental health needs

Office of the Auditor-General New Zealand media release: 15th February 2024

A more youth-focused, integrated, and coherent system of care is required to meet young people’s mental health needs, says the Auditor-General in a new report.

“Mental health concerns are the biggest health issue facing young New Zealanders today,” says Auditor-General John Ryan. “However, we found that many young people cannot get mental health support when they need it. In a country that prides itself on being a good place to bring up children and young people, this is a matter we should all be concerned about.”

Young people report the highest level of unmet need for mental health care of any age group. Early and effective support can help to reduce the lifelong human and economic costs of mental illness for individuals, whānau, and society.

The Auditor-General’s work focused on how well government agencies understand and work together to meet the mental health needs of young people aged 12 to 24 years.

The audit found that the 2019 funding of new youth-specific primary mental health and addiction services is making a difference, with about 3,000 young people accessing these services each month. This increased investment in primary care might relieve demand for more specialised services in time. However young people in need of specialist support are waiting longer to access specialist care than when the Wellbeing Budget was released.

Other observations from the report include:

  • Agencies need to work together better to create a more coherent and integrated youth mental health system.
  • Services and support should be tailored to meet young people’s needs – rather expecting them to fit into services and models of care designed for older adults.
  • A national mental health and addiction workforce plan is urgently needed.
  • Better information is needed about the nature and scale of young peoples’ mental health needs to effectively target services and spending.



Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


For further information, contact:

Kahu Tumai
Ph: +64 3 364 1777

Ph: +64 3 687 2600

Ph: +64 3 768 1160

For additional information, contact:

Psychiatric Emergency Line
0800 920 092

Suicide Crisis Helpline
0508 828 865

Depression Helpline
0800 111 757

0800 37 66 33
Free text to 234

What’s Up for 5 to 18 year olds
0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm).

0800 LifeLine
0800 543 354

SPARX e-therapy for young people

SPARX is an online game-style tool to help young people develop skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed.

This self-help e-therapy tool teaches young people key skills needed to help combat depression and anxiety.

The SPARX website also offers a mood quiz to help young people identify depression and gives information on where to get help.

Phone support from professional counsellors is available to SPARX users on 0508 4 SPARX.

Page last updated: 06/05/2024

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