Student mental health a concern

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Student Journalist Imogen Atkins investigates the growing concern for mental health in New Zealand schools.
Student Journalist Imogen Atkins investigates the growing concern for mental health in New Zealand schools. Image: Supplied

Mental health among New Zealand youth is a growing concern, teachers warn.

In 2013 the Education Review Office (ERO) found an increasing number of students were seeking help for their mental health and that their needs were becoming increasingly complex.

Figures indicate that mental health issues among adolescents have doubled over the last five years and is one of the greatest challenges our schools are facing.

A public secondary school teacher says digital platforms have increased pressure on teenagers. The bombardment of various social media channels makes it nearly impossible for youth to ignore. She says that the pressure that social media puts on students adds to their stress and dissatisfaction with themselves.  

A private school teacher in Auckland believes the pressure on students has increased over the years. A negative mindset has developed among students to “pass this test, or you’ll fail, if you fail you can’t get into a good university, if you can’t get into a good university, then you’ll be a failure at life,” she says.

A secondary school teacher at a public school (who did not want to be named) says many factors can trigger mental health issues. She believes an increase in internal assessments, social media, and difficulties at home can contribute to mental health problems.

She adds that there are “several positive programs for students who require help” and two full-time counsellors at their school for 1500 students. While the public school teacher says that they “do not have the resources to deal with the severity of some of the issues that students are facing.” 

The teacher believes that the stigma towards mental health also attributes to the increase in mental deterioration. Many students in New Zealand are “reluctant to admit that they have a problem. They refuse to acknowledge or accept help, in fear they will be considered weak,” she says.

“The causes of the growing mental health problems lie primarily with the schools and it is the causes, not the symptoms, that need addressing. For that to happen, whole school cultures will need to change, and sometimes, radically so.”

Where to get help:

Lifeline

0800 543 354 or (09) 522 2999

Suicide Prevention Helpline

0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOK0)

Youthline

0800 376 633

Samaritans

0800 726 666

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