A crisis helpline says demand for its services are higher than ever, with more young people reporting facing relationship and mental health challenges.
Lifeline said its text service, where people can seek support through text messaging, had its busiest ever month in April with more than 30,000 texts sent and received. Many of them were from people aged between 11 and 20.
It’s the second month in the row the Presbyterian Support Northern-run helpline had broken its records, with March seeing 27,000 texts. During last year’s lockdowns, texts to the helpline peaked at 25,000 a month.
Lifeline said the top issue young people who used the service reported was relationship challenges, such as with their families, friends and partners. This was followed by suicidal ideation, anxiety and depression.
Dr Fiona Pienaar, the professional practice lead at the helpline, told 1 NEWS the increased number of texts could also reflect the fact more young people were facing complex issues.
But the record demand is also a “very positive sign” because it means young people are more willing to reach out, she added.
Pienaar said even though New Zealand enjoyed a lot of freedom with the pandemic relative to other countries, Kiwis could see what was happening overseas.
“We have always, you know, online bullying, anxiety, school issues, relationship issues. There could be the effect of Covid-19 on top of that.
“I think a fair amount of that is concerned about the future and what normal looks like and will things return to normal.”
Pienaar said the demand is putting pressure on Lifeline’s services, which runs on donations.
“To be honest, we don’t always get to all the texts and the calls when people do reach out. They do hear an automated message to say we can’t get to the phone at the moment, and we do refer them to other services.
“We very much need to grow the service and have more counsellors available.”
Because it is hard for mental health services in the community to cope with increased demand, it is also up to people to look after each other, she said.
She suggested strategies like listening to others without interrupting, and being a supporter rather than jumping to solutions.