Funding to help get youth back on track


Specialists behind Central Otago’s mental health services for youth are hoping extra Government funding will soon add more traction to the district’s initiatives. Reporter Alexia Johnston finds out what those services are.

Uruuruwhenua Health navigator Alva Bennett works with youth and their whanau.

More funding would be welcomed to benefit the services the group provides locally and sooner, rather than later.

Ultimately, Mr Bennett wants to see some of that funding come through soon to ensure youth who need support now can get it before they become adults and their condition becomes “severe”.

“I would like to see it go to the younger people to get them right.”

Extra funding could be used to benefit Central Otago’s services in a range of ways, including a boost in resources and to provide further support to programmes already established.

Mr Bennett said the sector lacked mentors – people who could support those who needed guidance or a positive role model.

The work Mr Bennett does through Uruuruwhenua Health is very whanau-focused “to help get the family back on track and where they need to be”.

Part of that role was linking those families with other organisations, which are equipped to tend to their specific needs.

He said a lot of the children he works with have problems related to anxiety, which he “puts down to social media”.

In many cases they struggle to disconnect from online distractions.

The team at Uruuruwhenua Health participated in the recent Alexandra and Districts Youth Trust youth exhibition hosted in Alexandra.

It was there that they noticed how focused young people are in regards to the mental wellbeing of their peers, manager Mel Kuiti said.

“They wouldn’t take pamphlets for themselves, but they would take it for their friends. To me that means each of those kids that said they would take one knows they’ve got a friend that needs support.”

A recent Central Otago Youth Council survey also recently found mental wellbeing was on the minds of young people, who were concerned for their peers, highlighting the need for further investment locally.

Adventure Development Central Lakes service leader Malcolm Creagh is among those who have welcomed the Government’s pledge of $1.9 billion.

He understood some of that money was earmarked for programmes designed for mild to moderate cases, youth, rural and Maori.

“They are all things [the Government is] saying are priorities and they are for us, too. So, hopefully, we will see some resources going into that.”

Adventure Development, a mobile service, has a range of programmes, including Thrive Te Paeora, which assists young people aged 12 to 19.

It has a team of registered health professionals, who work to help young people manage issues, including those associated with mental health.

“That’s for what they class as mild to moderate, where young people are just having some mental health difficulties, things might be emerging like anxiety and depression, or mood swings.”

Thrive Te Paeora, which is offered over six sessions, provides people with the foundations needed for overall wellbeing.

“Anyone can refer, so long as the young person is saying ‘yes, I want to go along’.”

Mr Creagh said the programme’s mobile aspect meant the service could be taken to worksites and people’s homes.

“Our aim is breaking down barriers of people trying to access it. Trying to get [to] a service is a major thing.”

He said there had been a massive increase in young people accessing the service.

As a result, there was a maximum four-week wait, but the aim was to get people off that list within about two to three weeks, he said.

Five people were cleared off the list recently, which meant seven were left on it, Mr Creagh said, as an example of how it worked.

Adventure Development also offers a counselling service for 12 to 19-year-olds with moderate to severe cases, who want to combat substance use and abuse.

The counselling service is available for people for six months – over 20 sessions, which can involve the young person, their whanau, educator and/or employer.

It also has an adventure therapy component, which allows the young person to work on their goals away from any distractions over three to five days.


Adventure Development: 027 254-9323,

Uruuruwhenua Health: 0800 878-087


Youthline: 0800 376-633, txt 234 or email

What’s Up:(for 5 to 18-year­olds; 1pm-11pm): 0800 942-8787

Kidsline: (aimed at children aged up to 14; 4pm-6pm weekdays) 0800 543-754 (0800 kidsline)

Rainbow Youth: (LGBTQ youth helpline) (09) 376-4155

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