Young people in New Zealand are finding it difficult to ask for help about issues around sex, drugs, mental health and alcohol, turning to Google searches or the media before family, school counsellors, and doctors.
A new report, released by Youthline, showed 54 per cent of people aged between 16 and 24 cited embarrassment as the main reason they didn’t seek help or advice from a support organisation.
Stress was considered the biggest issue facing young people – 14 per cent put it at the top of their list. Exactly what caused the stress was not identified.
It was followed by a desire to be accepted, and bullying, both at 12 per cent. Drugs and suicide rounded out the top five, at 10 and 9 per cent respectively.
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Last week, the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) revealed New Zealand had the second worse rate of bullying in 15 year olds in the OECD, beaten only by Latvia.
While embarrassment was the main reason people in the survey weren’t seeking help for their problems, young people also felt there was little to no help provided to them when it came to stress, self-esteem and confidence issues, the survey found.
Youthline chief executive Stephen Bell said the organisation planned to dig deeper and find what was causing young people to feel so stressed.
It was the first time stress had come up as the leading issue, and anecdotally people it came from the expectations put on young people both from themselves and others. They were also worried about the future and finances.
“Stress is often used as a way to put words to a sense of: ‘Actually I don’t feel ok’,” Bell said.
He said the organisation would like to understand a bit more about what stress meant for young people, and would work on finding out.
When it came to the barrier of being embarrassed, asking for help was still a big issue. There was an internalised stigma that it was not ok to ask for help, or that a person’s issues weren’t important enough.
“Even if you have all the services in the world there’s still this inherent thing we have to cross.”
A new app released by Youthline and Coca-Cola, called Good2Great is expected to help young people understand what they are facing, and provide support and guidance.
It looked at wellness from a holistic perspective, including mindfulness and stress management – taking the essence of what Youthline has been doing in a face-to-face setting and making it more accessible.
The app was designed to help in a complex and stressful world, Bell said. It would guide those who used it through virtual scenarios designed to reflect real life, and help them learn to deal with common challenges young people faced.