Increase in New Zealand youth needing help post-covid

Youthline had planned to celebrate its 50th year in operation with a focus on 12 to 25-year-olds and the adults supporting them.

A gala dinner was planned on 9 May this year. Stacey Morrison was to be MC and Minister for Children Tracey Martin, a former Youthline counsellor herself, was going to speak. The goal was to raise $100,000 for its Helpline.

Instead, because of Covid-19, the gala dinner has been cancelled. The charity is now facing a $230,000 shortfall due to under-pressure corporate sponsors and funders pulling out of annual funding support.

Meanwhile, over lockdown Youthline has seen a 50 percent increase in contacts from young New Zealanders reaching out to it for support. The most common issues have been around suicide risk, anxiety, depression and self-harm. There has been an 85% increase in care and protection matters where young people are in unsafe homes or at risk of harm from others in their lives. Youthline has worked with many young people to help ensure their safety over this time. To keep up with this demand, the charity has needed to put on more Helpline staff.

Under normal circumstances, the Helpline receives $90,000 a year from Oranga Tamariki, and fundraises another $1 million to keep the Helpline running. It also relies on trained volunteer Helpline counsellors who work alongside the paid staff.

But it’s the people that use the Helpline that Youthline Chief Executive Shae Ronald worries about the most. “We know that economic downturn has a disproportionate impact on youth mental health and wellbeing”.

Youthline is well known as “the number one place for young people to reach out to for support” and in New Zealand, we have the highest youth suicide rate in the OECD. This is a rate that is startlingly higher among Māori young people. It is therefore vital that Youthline continues to be there for the increased number of young people and families reaching out for support over the recovery period.

“Young people experienced negative mental health impacts of lockdown for a variety of reasons. And we expect that could get worse. We know from other major events that have occurred locally and internationally that the need for mental health support is likely to increase over the subsequent months,” Ronald says.

“Due to incredible public support since we launched our public appeal a few weeks ago, we are now projecting a $230,000 shortfall in our usual Helpline funding. If we could – because we know there’s increased need – we would look to try to get more,” Ronald says. “But at least with the $230,000, we know we’d be able to keep operating to support young people and their families at the usual level.”

If people are in a position to help they can donate at Youthline’s Givealittle page, become a regular Youthline giver through Youthline’s website, or text YL to 5144 to donate $3.

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