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New light being shone on child and youth mental health in Canterbury

The mental health crisis facing children and young people and the sad state of the Canterbury facilities they are treated in is under the spotlight, with Māia Health Foundation launching a special Christmas appeal.

‘Shine A Light’ kicks off on 1 December, with the mission of raising $100,000 in three weeks.  The appeal comes as Māia prepares to launch its next major project – raising funds for a new, purpose designed outpatient facility for child and youth mental health in Christchurch.  The appeal funds will go directly towards this project.

“There is no doubt, we are facing a crisis in child and youth mental health.  Not only do more people need help, but the facilities where they receive treatment and care are old, outdated and simply not fit for purpose.  Māia has stepped up to be part of the solution - we knew if we didn’t, no one else would and our children and young people would continue to suffer,” says Māia Chief Executive Michael Flatman.

‘Shine A Light’ will be largely run online featuring stories from those at the coalface of child and youth mental health, along with brave stories from young people and their families who have faced a mental health struggle.

“As well as kick-starting our fundraising for this game-changing project, we hope this Christmas appeal also sparks important discussions around young people’s mental health. Hopefully, Cantabrians will then step up and join us to do something about it,” says Michael.

Māia is working closely with the Canterbury DHB to confirm details of what the new facility will look like and where it will be. The new facility will replace the current outpatients facilities at The Princess Margaret Hospital and Hillmorton campus.

The DHB’s Child, Adolescent and Family (CAF) service manager Deborah Selwood says CAF staff have gone above and beyond to respond to the increasing demand the service is experiencing, but they desperately need a new, fit for purpose facility.

“We can’t prevent why people are referred to us or what’s happened in their life that means they need our help.  But we can change how they feel when they get here.  As well as not reflecting a welcoming, caring environment, the facilities do not reflect our modern way of caring for people.  We have treatments and therapies that we would love to be able to offer, but our facilities don’t easily support,” says Deborah.

Mike Greenslade, head of the Counselling Department and Student Support Faculty at Burnside High School, works closely with the CAF team.

“If you go to a place that feels uncared for, then you feel uncared for.  When you go to a CAF outpatients facility, it’s like people don’t take it seriously.  Building, furnishings, environment – no one is taking it seriously.  They have amazing clinicians there but they are starting on the back foot.”

In 2019 the Government confirmed funding for the development of a new Integrated Family Services Unit at Hillmorton, which includes the Child, Adolescent and Family inpatient unit.  However there was no provision for a community-based outpatient facility.  This is despite a 140% increase in demand for child, adolescent and family mental health services since January 2018. 

In August 2020 the CAF team had 545 Canterbury children referred for help.

“Having Māia Health Foundation step up and commit their support to a new facility is amazing – it’s life changing and will make such a difference for the people we support,” says Deborah.

Michael Flatman says Māia means to be brave and courageous in te reo.

“That is what we’re asking Cantabrians now – to be brave and courageous and help us Shine a Light on child and youth mental health by talking about it, becoming informed about the crisis we’re facing and doing their bit to support our young people back to wellness.”

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