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Mental Health for Young People

We all have mental health that needs looking after. And just like with physical health, poor mental health can have a significant impact on our lives.

Challenges with mental health and addictions are common, and can affect anyone. They can range from something like not having enough sleep to cope with problems that come up, to being overwhelmed by life in general.

If you or someone that you know needs help urgently, and could be in serious and immediate danger to themselves or others, please call the Mental Health Emergency Helpline on 0800 46 78 46 (Press 1 for Southland and 2 for Otago Regions) or if the danger is imminent and you feel you cannot immediately manage the situation, you can call the Police on 111.

If you don’t need help urgently, but you would still like to see someone about your mental health, visiting a school guidance counsellor or attending your family doctor (GP) is a good place to start.

You can also look at the pages below for some methods of helping yourself, or to look into what help is available for both the short- and long-term.  

A Few Quick Ways to Combat Distress

There are lots of things you can do over time that will help to combat mental distress and improve your overall wellbeing. If you need to take a moment before looking through resources or information, or you need to overcome some current distress, try out one of the methods below: 

  1. Breathing – mindfulness and meditation can be great for mental wellbeing, but it can be hard to get started. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, set a timer for 1 minute and spend that time just focusing on your breath. Try to notice when your mind wanders, and just bring yourself back to breathing for that one minute. 
  2. Music – take a moment to sing a waiata, practice kapa haka, or listen to your favourite song. Pay attention to how the song makes you feel, and move along with the music if you want!  
  3. Grounding – known as the 54321 technique, this can be particularly useful if your mind is running away from you. First, name 5 things you can see. Then, 4 things you can physically feel, 3 things you can hear, and 2 things you can smell. Finish off with 1 thing you can taste. This practice can be easily changed to suit you, or the environment you’re in, whilst still allowing your mind to slow down. 
  4.  Senses – engage in something that pleases your senses, like having a hot shower, walking barefoot in nature, making a favourite drink, or lighting a scented candle. Focus on the sensation and how it makes your body feel in the moment. 
  5. Gratitude – take a photo of or write about one thing or a few things that you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but research shows that those who practice gratitude have better wellbeing. If you keep a record of things you are grateful for, you can also look back at it when you need a pick-me up. 

If you want some more ideas for little things you can do for your wellbeing, check out The Five Ways to Wellbeing by the Mental Health Foundation.


It’s important to remember there is always someone who is willing to and wants to listen. If you want support whilst in contact with services, or aren’t sure how to address how you’re feeling, there is someone who can help. You may be able to talk to a trusted friend, whānau member, or medical professional.  You might also want to try a helpline, where you can talk or text with a person who is trained to help you. You can find a list of helplines here:

Websites and Apps

There is a range of websites with useful information about mental health and wellbeing, some of which are designed specifically for young people. Helpful websites to learn about mental health and wellbeing can be found here:

There is also a selection of health-related apps that you may find useful in managing your mental health and wellbeing. For information on how to choose the right health app for you visit Health Navigator. A list of apps can be found here:

Staff and service directory

There are lots of different people who can help you with the difficulties you’re facing. These people will have a range of backgrounds and areas of expertise. If you’re not sure who it is you’re seeing or what they should be able to help you with, make sure to ask. You can find a description of each type of professional who may work with you here:

You may come across a variety of different services on your mental health journey, some of which are run by the Southern DHB, and some of which may be what are called NGOs (non-government organisations). A list of DHB and NGOs you may encounter can be found here:

Supporting a Young Person?

The best thing you can do for a young person is to listen and take notice. You can help by starting the conversation with a young person if you notice changes in their mood or behaviour, or by creating a family culture where it is okay to talk about feelings. If your young person is attending mental health services, either through Southern DHB or a non-government organisation (NGO), don’t be afraid to ask questions about what’s going on, who the main people involved in their care are, and what resources might be out there for you and your whānau. 

Below is a list of websites you may find useful in supporting your young person with mental health issues: