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New ways for youth to access mental health support

A chat bot and Youthline’s web chat has received extra funding to support young people. File image/SunLive.

A range of support tools to help young people manage anxiety due to the uncertainty and change caused by COVID-19 are being funded by the Ministry of Health.

“We know young people are really affected by the uncertainty of COVID-19 and may be impacted through a lack of social connection, financial stability or protective factors,” says MOH deputy-director general, mental health and addiction Robyn Shearer.

Youthline has also asked young people what sort of support they want and they’ve said they want to be able to access support online and by text and not just in person or over the phone.

The Ministry of Health is providing funding to Youthline to ramp up its web chat function so young people can talk one-to-one with a real person if they feel they need some help.

Funding has also been provided for a chatbot called Aroha that is designed to help young people cope with stress. Aroha uses the Facebook messenger app to provide practical, evidence-based tools to manage stress, ideas to maintain social connection, and ways to stay active using youth-friendly digital activities.

“It’s really important for young people to see and hear the message repeatedly that it is ok to not be ok. That’s completely normal for everyone at every life stage. Most importantly, they are not alone, and help is available – we all need help from time-to-time. Mental wellbeing support is available for free and is confidential, says Robyn.

“It’s also available in a range of ways so young people can choose how they feel most comfortable getting that help, whether it’s talking to someone, texting or chatting with someone online or using some of the mental wellbeing tools like the Melon app and online community of peer support.”

The Melon app is another of the online tools the Ministry of Health has funded as part of the COVID-19 response to make help available to everyone. In addition to the app, Melon have been ramping up content specific to young people which can be found here.

Next week they are adding new resources including videos and an Anxiety Toolkit course. The five-session course is aimed at those aged 13 and over and focuses on learning how to accept yourself, build confidence and manage emotions to help get through tough times.

This funding is in addition to other recently announced COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing initiatives. These initiatives include Sparklers at Home, part of the Getting Through Together campaign run by All Right? Sparklers provides fun activities for parents to help look after the wellbeing of children during COVID-19.

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