When I was selected to represent Whangaparāoa in the 10th Youth Parliament earlier this year, I immediately put my focus on one important area that I wanted to highlight during my tenure as a Youth MP – mental health.
I picked mental health as a topic because having lived through the Covid-19 lockdowns, I could see the pressure they were putting on our communities and their mental health. I believe that particularly our youth, many of whom were already struggling with mental health issues, have suffered over the last two years with the uncertainty and lack of social connection that lockdowns brought with them – and this is something that is very important to me.
The increase in depression and suicide rates in New Zealand continues to spike at an alarming rate, with one in every six New Zealanders experiencing depression at least once in their life.
The Labour-led Government continue to throw money around in this area of our health system, yet no results are delivered in lowering the depression and suicide rate in our country. It is very alarming and soon we could be on the verge of another pandemic in this country – the mental health pandemic.
In the general debate speech that I made in Parliament in July, I used the line, “depression is not a choice, it is an illness” because it is quite simply never a choice.
No New Zealander should feel that the system has failed them, and no New Zealander should ever feel isolated from asking for help. But that’s the unfortunate reality we have in our country.
Mental health services are too overwhelmed and underfunded and counsellors are unable to support those seeking help. One in 10 young people in New Zealand seeking mental health support are left on a waiting list for more than two months and that waiting list continues to get bigger every year yet nothing is done to support our school counsellors.
I was enormously privileged to have been selected to be the Youth MP for Whangaparāoa this year, and I am very proud that I used this unique platform to spread greater awareness of the appalling state that our mental health system is in.
Too many New Zealanders are falling victim to our mental health crisis and it is time the government starts to listen. No one should ever feel too scared to ask for help.
There are a number of services you can call if you need help. These are: Lifeline, 0800 543 354 or text 4357 (HELP); Suicide Crisis Helpline, 0508 828 865; Need to talk? Call or text 1737; Depression Helpline, 0800 111 757 or text 4202. For children and young people: Youthline, 0800 376 633 or text 234; What’s Up, 0800 942 8787 (11am–11pm) or webchat (11am to 10.30pm).
Ethan Johnston, aged 17, represented Mark Mitchell at this year’s Youth Parliament. He has lived in Manly for most of his life and is a student at Whangaparāoa College.