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Standing up for young people in mental health

Last Updated: April 2019

The Taiohi Ora Youth Wellness Service adds value to the lives of young people and meets a large amount of unmet need. Those are among the findings of an evaluator, who assessed the service during 2018.

The Tui Ora service, established after a 2016 review of the Children and Young Person’s Mental Health and Addiction Services, provides more support at the primary and mild to moderate end of mental health. Says the evaluation: 

“The arrival of the Taiohi Ora pathway brings new opportunities for reaching taiohi at an early stage, providing tools and strategies for taiohi and their whānau to cope with life’s pressures.”

It’s also different from other services in that it works across three areas – inside schools with pastoral care teams, in the running of group programmes (either skills based resiliency or Taiohi Tū groups) and in one on one support for taiohi and their whānau.

Staff support young people, ranging in age from 12-18 years, who experience distress for a variety of reasons ranging from bullying and sexuality or gender identity to anxiety, depression, self-harm or other stressful life events.

The evaluation says demand is high for such a service – something also highlighted in last year’s Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. Among its findings was a lack of early intervention for the “missing middle”, those who are not “unwell enough” to be at crisis point.

To address local demand, the Taiohi Ora evaluation notes that cases are shared around, kaupapa Māori expertise is drawn on and collaboration occurs across staff teams in Tui Ora. The Tui Ora public health team, for example, helped run the school group programme Taiohi Tū and members of the Whānau Ora team can step in to work intensively with families.

(Taiohi Tū is a kaupapa Māori-based programme to help explore strengths, set goals and provide knowledge for better choices to enhance wellbeing and identity.)

School relationships are strong, and many taiohi who took part in programmes set goals, gave up destructive behaviours and are on a path to improved wellbeing with the support of their whānau. 

“Schools are reporting improved behaviour of students with less anger in the school environment,” noted the evaluation.

It recommended eleven points to strengthen the service – some which are already in place. Others included more Māori staff in the service, exploring the investment and feasibility of support for more schools and involvement of South Taranaki iwi providers (if it was expanded in the south). 

Taiohi Ora Team Leader Tosca Lammerts van Bueren says the evaluation was positive with changes already underway before its release.

This includes a streamlined intake process where earlier triaging takes place over the phone and a young person’s environment and family situation is collated in a Whānau Snapshot. Regular peer consult meetings mean cases are reviewed as a team, and there are strong links with TDHB’s Child Adolescent and Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

The service continues to work with four schools: Devon and Hawera Intermediates as well as Waitara High and Spotswood College, but interest is high from others who can refer students for intensive community support.

“We have come a long way in providing this service and trying to make it practical and reach a wide number of people,” says Tosca. “Our ability to get in there sooner rather than later, being able to point whānau in the right direction [for support] and to provide young people with a range of wellbeing strategies…will, we hope, strengthen their resiliency in the long term.”

It’s hoped the service can build on its foundation to address more unmet need, she says.

The report’s author said: “The team should be very proud of the important work they are undertaking in supporting all rangatahi to reach their potential.”
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