Supporting Young People in Aotearoa - video transcript

Video transcript 

Speaker: Shae Ronald

Tena koutou katoa.  (20 seconds of Māori spoken)

So lovely, such a warm welcome here this morning.  Thank you for having me, and it's so nice to see some familiar faces in the room so thank you for coming along, it means a lot.  I am very privileged to be the CEO at Youthline and I just wondered how many people have had some involvement with Youthline, if you could put your hands up?  A few in the room, okay.  So we've been going for 50 years next year and we were set up so that young people who weren't accessing services could be supported by other young people.  We were set up in 1970 and we have nine centres across the country, including three centres up in Auckland.  We supported over 35,000 -- you'll see it's just under 35,000 young people last year.  We've got a helpline, we've got face to face counselling, youth mentoring and programmes in the school and community throughout the country.

We work as a collective impact model and so all the centres are separate legal entities who work together under a collective impact model to provide a national helpline across the country, and that's a 24/7 helpline.  There's an example there of a quote.  We recently evaluated our helpline and a quote from a young person:

Now, I know there's lots of people in this room who work with children and young people and I do totally want to acknowledge the big mahi that we've got in relation to children and young people, and I wanted to talk today about what we're seeing in relation to increased level of risk around the children and young people contacting us.  These are some of our stats from the last year, so we managed 273,410 contacts to our helpline, and that was through phone, we've got email, we've got text and webchat.  That's a lot of people reaching out for help, and a lot of those are young people and a number of them are families and parents reaching out for support for their children and young people.  Sadly two out of five texts that we've been receiving are around anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide, and one out of five around suicide.  And since January this year those numbers have doubled, so we are now seeing a doubling of the level of risk in the young people contacting us.  So, as I explained before, we have three doorways, we talk about young people coming in to get help to learn and grow and to contribute, and those are some of the services we provide that I talked about earlier. 

I wanted to talk to you about the State of the Generation research, that's the nationally representative survey of New Zealand young people.  So Colmar Brunton have been undertaking this research for us every sort of two to three years, and it's been fascinating watching the changes in young people over those years.  For the researchers in the room these were the objectives of the research.  It was really to find out what issues are facing young people, how are they seeking help and how might we better support them, all of us across the country.  Young people came from across New Zealand who are involved in the research, it took place in July and August of this year and 406 16 to 24 year olds were involved.  This shows a sample profile, you'll see the mix in ages, ethnicity, so we had -- just of note, 16% Māori or Pacific and 17% Asian.  We particularly wanted to find out how things were going for young people in those communities, and the spread across the country there. 

So we weren't surprised to hear that a large number of young people think they're viewed negatively by our communities.  What we thought was sad was that of those young people Māori and Pacific young people and 16 and 17 year olds were more likely to think that they were viewed negatively by our communities.  A number of young people knew where to get support.  We asked them, "Do you know where to go to get support?  Can you get support when you need it?"  Many said they did and they could, but again we were concerned that still around one in ten young people don't feel they have positive ways to cope and would not reach out for help and don't think their friends would reach out either, and that Māori and Pacific young people and 16 and 17 year olds all were less aware of where they could go for support.

We weren’t surprised with New Zealand's high youth suicide rate, that 83% of young people viewed mental health as the biggest issue facing their generation.  Again we weren't surprised that there was a significant increase in the number of young people who were stating that suicide was a big issue for young people.  Interested to see and interesting in the work we all do that young people are thinking that drugs and alcohol have gone down in relation to the significance of those issues in young people's lives.  But when we looked at that it just reflects what we're seeing at Youthline.  It would be interesting to hear from others whether or not it's reflecting what you're seeing in your work as well. 

When we asked young people about ranking those issues, and also what did they think was the single biggest issue facing young people, you'll see that mental health again is hitting the top of the list.  What was interesting is that the environment and sustainability is coming up really high for young people as seeing that as like the biggest issue facing their generation, and also economic uncertainty and debt.  So just thinking of some of those contextual factors around young people and the environment, and not surprising we're seeing such an awesome uprising of young people in relation to advocating for sustainability and a better environment for all of us. 

We were interested in the demographic breakdown around how different groups of young people and communities of young people saw the issues in their communities, and interesting to see that Māori and Pacific young people were more likely to mention that they were seeing suicide and drugs as a big issue for their communities, and that Asian young people mentioned racism.  Also again not surprising but, you know, of note, 16 and 17 year olds really thought that mental health was the absolute biggest issue for their group.

& Some gender differences.  It was clear from this survey that young women had a greater perception of the issues that are facing young people than young men, and we can only sort of surmise what that might be about.  Some people might say it's around the development rates in relation to women and men but, yeah, interesting, we've got some very aware young women in our communities.  We asked young people what did they mean when they talked about stress, just to unpack that a little bit, and what came through there was around stress and expectation in relation to education, in relation to social media, in relation to expectations of society in a fast moving world.  So there's a quote there from a young person, I'll just see if I can read it:

"High expectations in a fast paced growing world which is difficult to adapt to.  People are getting out of touch with reality and away from social support like friends and family."

And you'll see in this survey research friends and family play such a critical role in young people's lives and in their mental health and wellbeing, so that young people are seeing the kind of breakdown of social support is important for us to take notice of. 

So we asked young people did they feel they had received the support that they were looking for, and unfortunately since 2016 the rates of young people who said no, they hadn't, have actually significantly increased.  The issues that they're looking for support for, again not surprisingly mental health coming out at the top there, and 16 and 17 year olds were more likely to be seeking support for those issues. 

So there's a breakdown there where young people aren't getting the support they're seeking it's around mental health.  It's really clear there, a hugely significant change from 2016.  Those are some of the key issues.  When young people felt that they were helped, you know, how were they helped, family and friends coming up top there and, you know, that's something that we just keep on emphasising, you know, in relation to making sure that families and friends are equipped to support young people in their lives as well as making sure that young people themselves are equipped to be able to manage their own mental health and wellbeing.  Another quote:

They were there when I needed to talk but also were there to ask questions to make me talk."

And it came out here in the research the importance of actually reaching out to young people, so asking if young people are okay.  And we know it's a bit of a myth that if you ask if someone is okay, especially if they're experiencing suicidal thoughts or in that kind of a space that it will make it worse.  It doesn't make it worse.  It's really important that we do ask and make sure that we are available as a resource if someone's having a hard time.  So that came out there, which we thought was -- it's really good that young people are saying what would make a difference for them.

What came out most around how they better could have been supported was around someone who was non-judgemental.  So someone who might have similar experiences and also counselling, counselling has come out through this research as something that young people think is a really important platform for them to be able to support their mental health and wellbeing.  So, you know, that's something we're really hot on, I expect numbers of you are hot on it, it's just making sure you're providing like a confidential non-judgemental space that young people feel they are free to kind of talk about whatever is going on for them without judgement. 

We asked, we know there's been lots of conversation about suicide, youth suicide, and we felt there hadn't been many voices of young people in there in relation to what do young people think should be done, what's going on, you know.  So we put in these questions for the first time this year, so what would make the biggest difference in relation to reducing New Zealand's high youth suicide rate, and this is what young people told us.  Remove the stigma about talking about mental health, provide better support in schools, and equip and empower young people with the tools and resources to be able to support and manage their own mental health and wellbeing.  And there was a theme there around social media, which is interesting and something for us to unpack, in relation to the pressure that young people are feeling from that.  It raises questions, I've been talking with Facebook about what are they doing to help make sure that their platforms are as safe as possible for young people and are as supportive as possible for young people who might be experiencing difficult times.  They're doing some good stuff, which is great.

It was great to get this, like really smart, not rocket science, pretty building block stuff, and when we're thinking about suicide prevention strategy and suicide prevention office, we think it's vital that young people are involved and that they are saying what's going to -- what are going to be the meaningful solutions for them.  I don't feel there's enough of that, you know, kind of in the public dialogue around this at the moment.  We asked young people where do they go for help and again, probably no surprise for any of us, friends, families coming up top there.  We were happy to see that young people are still accessing helplines, that's good, and interesting for Māori and Pacific young people that family and whanau came out even higher.  So, really, really important in relation to Māori whanau that they are as much as possible equipped to support their rangatahi to be able to handle the challenges that they're facing, and that makes a big difference for young people.

And young people are going to Google to find out answers to their problems, and what we're finding at Youthline is that young people are going to Google to find out how bad they are, so they might feel anxious, how anxious are they, you know, they want to see are they on a scale of one to ten.  So self-assessment tools and things like that seem to be becoming more important, yeah, so that young people can kind of find out for themselves and then hopefully seek support and help depending on where they end up on that. 

A bit concerned that TV shows are such a massive source for young people of information, and that social media had gone down a bit but interestingly when young people were probed about that they named a whole lot of social media sites as places they were going to get information.  But helpful, hey, for us working with young people to understand these are the sources, to make sure that our services are utilising channels and mediums that young people are engaging with.

We launched a chat bot this year which is a little AI tool called Sam and young people can go on there, and families, and adults supporting young people, and there's a list of 20 questions that young people developed that are common questions that seem to be of importance to young people, and they can get information straight out from the chat bot.  And it's interesting of that 52% of people coming through that are converting to speak to a counsellor, so there's still this desire to want to seek further help, which we think is great. 

And, as I said before, counselling, so young people are saying face to face counselling is by far the most important support platform for them, which is interesting because so many young people we work with aren't that keen on the face to face as much as more of the -- of technology.  So, important that we keep on our kanohi ki te kanohi engagement with young people and make sure that we've got free, non-judgemental counselling available across the motu for all young people who might need support.  There's a significant increase in numbers of young people saying that helplines were an important platform for them, and for Māori and Pacific that youth groups and youth mentoring, probably no surprise for numbers of us, the most important support platform. 

; So there was a general awareness kind of question which might be interesting for people in this room who are from some of these organisations.  Youthline was the most recognised youth support organisation, we're really pleased to see that, and 71% nationally 60% in Auckland in terms of awareness.  I mean, I'll let you read that but interesting, you know, in relation to as an organisation, you might not know, our helpline, we only get $90,000 for our 24/7 helpline and it costs us $1.1 million to run it.  So we fundraise -- have to fundraise over $1 million a year just to keep our helpline going, and we know and we're thankful, the only Government funding we get for our helpline is actually from Oranga Tamariki, which is amazing, and we're thankful for that.  And we know, as you probably do too, oodles of money is pumped into some Government initiatives and they're not getting the kind of cut through that some of the existing organisations who have been around and done the hard yards are getting.  So I think it's important, I have as much as possible advocated to the Government that we need to make sure that existing organisations are strengthened, don't just keep starting new initiatives that ultimately don't seem to sustain.

So the numbers of young people who'd contacted these organisations, again we were really thrilled that a quarter of young people or their friends had contacted Youthline.  Family Planning, yay, that's awesome to see.  Really cool to see.  And lots of young people hadn't contacted any support organisations, which is also interesting given what young people are telling us about mental health being the biggest issue, given we have the highest rate of youth suicide in the developed world. 

So just a recap, 16 and 17 year olds and Māori and Pacific Island young people are less likely to feel that they are viewed positively, and when we think about the disproportionate rate of Māori and Pacific young people who are dying by suicide in New Zealand, you know, it does raise some questions around if you think you are not valued and society is not seeing you in a positive light, what does that do around messaging for yourself about who you are as a person and how positively or negatively you might view yourself.  And, you know, just thinking about your stuff too, Matt, around adverse child experiences.  Like I found your research fascinating and thinking about if you grow up not having that kind of positive self-talk and support, no wonder our kids are having a hard time when they come out the other end. 

So something for all of us there.  And the majority of young people know where they go to get help, 73% which is great, but 16 and 17 year olds who are more likely to be seeking support around mental health issues do not as much as the others.  Again, I know I've told you this but the three things around reducing our youth suicide rate for young people, removing the stigma around talking about mental health, providing better support in schools, and empowering young people to manage their own health and wellbeing.  And there was talk in the survey about doing that from a young age and doing that kind of from a base that young people can then build on.  When we look at who did and didn't receive support the 32% who felt they didn't receive the support that they wanted said it would have been -- made a difference for them if someone could -- there could have been someone for them to talk to who was non-judgemental, who could associate with their experiences, or if they had access to regular counselling.  So having people reach out to them would be beneficial rather than having -- them get through the barriers of embarrassment and other barriers in terms of reaching for help -- reaching out for help.  So we've -- you know, we know that cost, embarrassment, sometimes fear that there won't be a culturally appropriate response, those are the kind of things that are sort of stopping young people that came through in the research in relation to reaching out for help. 

Platforms.  The majority of New Zealand youth, so 69%, perceive that face to face counselling is providing the best support for young people, and their friends and family are critical and information sources, the internet there was the highest source of information.  We know that 35% of all that had been surveyed only had ever contacted a support organisation, and there's the barriers and cost there, embarrassment and cost -- sorry, the barriers to getting help -- embarrassment and cost, feeling their issues are not big enough.  I find that fascinating given what we're seeing, and what's come through in the survey.  Not wanting to talk to someone, and uncertainty of what might happen.  So it kind of reminded us again about the importance of making sure that young people understand what's going to happen with their information, what's going to happen if they're at immediate risk of harm to themselves or others, what sort of privacy they're entitled to and where we will need to pass on information.  It's very hard to read this one here so I'm just going to read it here, Māori and Pacific Island youth are more likely to mention embarrassment, fear of judgement, trust, not culturally acceptable, not sure if their culture will be understood.  Again reiterates for us the need to be providing culturally competent services for Māori and Pacific and rainbow communities and all the other communities.

So there's a question there that we have been asking ourselves about how can we make sure that we support young people to overcome the barriers approaching us, and I would ask you to ask that of yourselves too in relation to any services you provide to young people, what might be the current barriers at the moment, and is there anything else you could do to reduce those barriers for young people. 

So that left us with these discussion themes, which I've already kind of talked through today, but just to kind of leave with you so that you do kind of ponder them and keep thinking about them.  Is it any surprise that mental health came out as the biggest issue?  Lots of shaking heads, no.  Is that what you're seeing in your services?  Yeah, and in policy and -- yeah.  It makes me think we're in this kind of rising tide, it does feel like a rising tide and, yeah, we need to see how we can bring it back down.  We talk about a community of people who care, so we talk about building communities of young people who care for young people.  We're really pleased, like our 300 and something volunteers, most of them are young people supporting other young people.  So that is pretty cool.  How do we do that more in our communities, and again how do we make sure we remove the barriers to young people seeking support.  These are the lovely team who worked on this research at Colmar Brunton, and I've got copies of the report here if anyone wants them, and of course feel free to contact me any time, I'm happy to talk further.  So thank you for your time. 


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