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Research finds youth voice needed to tackle mental health crisis

18 May 2023

Interview by Andre Fa’aoso, adapted by David Liwei Shi 

University of Auckland research fellow Dr Jessica Stubbing (pictured) says young people are “calling out for so much more” when it comes to receiving mental health support. Photo: Supplied by Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures.

Listen to the full interview

The report commissioned by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission included findings from 105 government organisations, charities, and researchers on four areas that impact youth wellbeing: bleak futures, racism and discrimination, social media, and intergenerational connectedness.

A co-author of the report, Dr Jessica Stubbing, told 95bFM’s The Wire that youth voice in mental health policy is an urgent priority. 

“Young people are the experts on their world and we know that youth culture moves very quickly, particularly on social media, so we need to be talking to them and hearing their perspectives.”

Stubbing said the issue is complex and requires a nuanced response as mental health does not affect young people in Aotearoa equally. 

For example, Māori and Pasifika youths identifying as LGBTQIA+ are more at risk of suffering from poor mental well-being. 

A recent Treasury well-being report found young people in Aotearoa are faring poorly compared to other countries and generations.

“Historically, no one – whether that’s health researchers, policymakers, ministers, or governments – has been great at listening and incorporating youth voice into the bigger context. We need to get better at understanding how all of these things fit together.”

Stubbing said young people are “calling out for so much more” when it comes to receiving mental health support. 

“They are calling out for more holistic support and responses that genuinely are youth- focused and centred.”

Researchers from Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland, will be doing further consultation with young people to hear their perspectives. 

“This report touches on just four issues young people are experiencing. That is why we are extending this research; to gain more rich information about other things impacting young people’s wellbeing.”