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Mental Health and Wellbeing

What lies behind young kiwi minds?

Mental health issues are becoming increasingly salient in New Zealand with a rise in the incidence and prevalence of conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and others. This proliferation over the past few decades is as varied as it is complex; including a greater awareness and increase in diagnoses, to the role played by environmental factors.
11 Active projects

Why is it a problem?

Why is it a problem?

What is mental health?

Broadly speaking, mental health is your emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. And a mental health condition can occur when ongoing symptoms cause frequent distress and affect your ability to function.

Is good mental health being ‘happy all the time’?

Not necessarily. Everyone has good days and bad days. And sometimes life can throw surprises and problems at us that are difficult to deal with. But good mental health is generally regarded as:

• feeling positive about ourselves and others most of the time,
• being able to form good relationships,
• having the resilience to overcome challenges.

Mental health and young people

There are about 800,000 young people (aged between 12 and 24) in New Zealand – and having healthy and happy young people will ensure a healthier society for New Zealand, both now and in the future. 

How does ‘poor mental health’ happen?

Why have youth mental health rates risen so quickly in Aotearoa New Zealand? The research suggests that the answers are many and varied – and there is no easy answer or quick fix. Here are ten common contributing factors:
• alcohol and/or drug misuse or abuse
• physical or sexual abuse; bullying or domestic violence; early life trauma
• social isolation/loneliness
• discrimination/racism
• poverty or social deprivation; unemployment or job loss
• expectations created by social media and technology
• educational structures
• poor physical health
• pressure/stress
• changing parenting, family and social contexts

Did you know?

There are rising rates of youth depression in New Zealand, with mental morbidity rates (physical and psychological deterioration) more than doubling over the last two decades, for both males and females.


Here are just some of the projects we are funding to help address New Zealand’s troubling youth mental health statistics.

Self-harm resource development

Self-harm is relatively prevalent among young people in New Zealand, yet there are very few resources to help families support their young people who are struggling with it. To help address this, we’re funding an important new project that will develop resources to help parents, caregivers and whānau to respond to the needs of young people who self-harm.

Wearable tech to help with anxiety

Building resilience in adolescents is vital to sustaining wellbeing and reducing mental distress. This project will investigate how wearable technology can be used to identify the early changes associated with an anxiety episode in adolescents, in order to provide the opportunity for earlier brief intervention.

The impact of adverse childhood experiences
Using data from a previous research study of prenatal exposure to methamphetamine, Associate Professor Dr Trecia Wouldes, and her team are investigating whether meth-exposed adolescents have more health, mental health and behavioural problems than those who are not. They will also compare these results to other childhood adversities.

Using ancestral knowledge as a framework for Māori wellbeing

Associate Professor Leonie Pihama will lead a project concerning the place of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) in the development of evidence-based, cultural interventions to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young Māori.

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