East Christchurch youths ‘high risk’ for mental health issues

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Youth in the eastern suburbs are more likely to have self-harmed, suffered anxiety, depression and low self-esteem than others in the country.

The Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project’s December report showed out of the six areas assessed across the country, east Christchurch youth were the most at risk.

Data from three schools, showed 36 per cent had high anxiety or depression, 28 per cent had self-harmed, 43 per cent suffered low self-esteem and 36 per cent lacked a sense of belonging.

Forty-three per cent lacked feeling safe at school, while 18 per cent suffered moderate to severe bullying.

They were the highest in all categories, when compared with Northland, West Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Lower Hutt and Invercargill.

Community, youth and child services provider St John of God Waipuna’s health and well being manager Mohammad Zareei said the figures were not surprising.

He said they had client’s as young as 10 who were anxious to leave the house as a result of the earthquakes.

There were “never enough” resources to cope with the four referrals they received a week, he said.

“They [clients] have to wait four weeks and that crucial time goes. What would happen in those four to five weeks to see clinicians?”

He said often they needed to work with the youth’s whole family, rather than them individually.

“It’s not something we can fix by putting a plaster on it.

“If there is an issue in east Christchurch, it belongs to Christchurch. It’s not just the east.”

Linwood College principal Richard Edmundson said the earthquakes had “heightened” some youths’ vulnerability.

“Do I think about it in the middle of the night? Absolutely,” he said.

“It’s unfortunately not surprising because logically that’s what we’d expect and post-disaster research had let us know this could be the case.”

In the past year, the number of students seeking the school’s counselling services had increased, and so had repeat visits, he said.

“That’s showing the severity for some students.”

But he said when it asked for support from the Ministry of Education, it got it.

Christchurch East Labour MP Poto Williams said many homes, schools and community facilities were destroyed in the February 2011 earthquake.

Schools in had merged, rebuilt or changed, which meant some youths did not feel a sense of belonging, she said.

“Our kids just haven’t coped well.”