The worsening state of rangatahi mental health has been exposed in a nationwide health report released this week.
The State of Child Health in Aotearoa NZ report has studied the mental health of children for the first time and says those who suffer mental distress have increased five-fold over the last decade.
The report shows young people are struggling.
“In the past 15 years there's been a doubling of hospitalisation for mental health concerns and so we know that's really distressing because that means people who end up in hospital don't just end up there for mild mental health stuff - this is really the severe end of the scale,” Cure Kids child and adolescent mental health chair Professor Terryann Clark (Ngāpuhi) says.
Clark says poverty plays a part. “We also have huge inequalities, so we know childhood adversity accounts for about one-third of all adult mental illness so, actually our babies who have been exposed to poverty, who have been exposed to trauma, are much more likely to experience mental health concerns.”
According to the research, the percentage of young people who have recently experienced severe psychological anguish has increased from 5% to an alarming 25%.
Rheumatic fever on rise
“It's getting harder for children and young people to maintain their mental well-being when there's lots of negative stuff happening in their environment,” Clark says.
Public health physician Dr Sainimere Boladuadua says the report also shows rheumatic fever and rheumatic disease are also on the rise, particularly in Pasifika and Māori children compared with other ethnicities.
“Pacific children were 100 times more likely to be admitted to a hospital with rheumatic fever as compared to non-Māori and non-Pacific and Māori tamariki were 40 times more likely than non-Māori, non-Pacific tamariki and so we're talking about actually those who were hospitalised with rheumatic fever.”
The advisory panel says that, if Aotearoa merely addresses child poverty, the cost of living, and housing, all these alarming effects can be avoided.