for youth and children
More than 2000 youth and children around the country are waiting for appointments for mental health assessments with district health boards (DHBs). There are 273 in Waitematā waiting for their first appointment, 189 in Southern, 164 in the Nelson/Marlborough region, 125 in Taranaki and a staggering 459 in Waikato and 463 in Canterbury. These are the young people whose referrals have been accepted. Many have had theirs rejected, some time and time again.
DHBs say Covid-19 has driven a surge in demand, and they are struggling to meet it. Wait times in Auckland have been exacerbated further by Covid-19 restrictions, with DHBs finding it difficult to arrange clinical appointments over the phone or Zoom. Counties Manukau says young people are increasingly presenting with "significant self-harm and suicide ideation", pushing out the wait time for "non-urgent" referrals even further.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said the waitlists and wait times are a symptom of a system which has been neglected for decades.
"I think people are being faced with horrific decisions where they have to triage, they have to choose. They're so overwhelmed they're having to make decisions they shouldn't have to make," he said.
"I just feel heartbroken for many people when they are reaching out for support and they're caught in these terrible gaps in the system."
The office of the Children's Commissioner said it was a breach of a young person's rights.