Mental health services for young people

Key points about mental health services for youth

  • Everyone has tough times, but teenage and younger adult years can bring some extra challenges.
  • It’s normal to need help with these.
  • It’s always best to get help early so you can get things back on track sooner rather than later.
  • There are different types of support available.
  • Many services are free and provide information and confidential advice from trained professionals.
  • If you’re told that there is a waiting time for a service, please still reach out and make contact. Other supports can be put in place.


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Mental health support can come in the form of:

  • urgent crisis support
  • GP and practice nurse support
  • phone helpline services
  • online resources
  • counselling and psychotherapy
  • medication
  • peer support groups
  • mental health and wellbeing apps
  • community mental health services
  • hospital or residential care.

In a mental health crisis, you can phone 111 or your local mental health crisis service(external link). You can also free call or text 1737 any time to talk to a trained counsellor about anything on your mind.

There are so many resources and support services out there, it can be a bit overwhelming to even know where to start.

A good place to start is to talk to your GP (family doctor), if you have one. GPs are trained to assess, treat and manage many mental health issues. 

They can help work out what level of support would be best for you, and they know about the local services in your area if you need them. If you don’t have a GP, you can find one at Healthpoint(external link)

You can also talk to a friend, parent or caregiver, your school-based health service, counsellor or a trusted teacher. 

If you would rather not talk to someone face to face, or want help right now and there is no one to talk to, start by with phoning or texting 1737. They provide free, confidential 24-hour text and phone support from trained counsellors. There are other helplines for young people and helplines for people with specific issues – see our list below. 

If you want to try an online resource first, New Zealand-based services, resources and apps are best to start with, as they will have a better understanding of your cultural context, the services we have in Aotearoa and so on. See the list below. 

Whatever feels right for you, the main thing is to reach out and ask for help if you need it. With mental health issues, the earlier you reach out, the sooner you will get the help you need and the easier it is to get better again.

There are helplines especially for young people:

  • Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to talk to a trained counsellor about anything on my our mind.
  • Youthline(external link) (0800 376 633) Free helplines 24/7 – free TXT 234, free call 0800 37 66 33, chat online(external link) (10am – 10pm) or email.  Youthline provides access to support and help for young people, as well as youth development and leadership programmes. They also offer a counselling service(external link) with up to 8 free counselling sessions (over the phone, face-to-face or via video call), in Auckland.
  • What's Up(external link) 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Sunday, 11am-11pm. Online chat is available Monday to Sunday 11am-10.30pm.

There are other helplines not specifically aimed at young people, but that you might find helpful for specific issues:

There are New Zealand-based online resources for young people:

The Lowdown(external link) The Lowdown is a website to help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety. The site includes:

  • helpful information on anxiety and depression
  • guidance on other issues relevant to young people, such as bullying and family relationships
  • quick steps to help build healthy mental wellbeing
  • places to go to get help
  • information for anyone worried about a friend
  • a moderated forum for young people to share stories and experiences and provide peer-to-peer support
  • a free-text service: text number 5626.

SPARX(external link) SPARX is an interactive self-help online tool that teaches young people skills to help combat depression and anxiety.

Aunty Dee(external link) Aunty Dee is a free online tool for anyone who needs some help working through a problem. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, you can use Aunty Dee to help you work it through.

There are also other New Zealand-based online resources, that while not aimed solely at young people, you might find helpful:

CALM(external link) – CALM is computer-assisted learning for the mind. It includes audio modules, eg, meditation, mindfulness, dealing with anger and preparing for exams.

Common Ground(external link) – A website to assist parents, whānau, and friends to recognise and understand the difficult situations that young people experience in their lives. link) This website helps New Zealanders recognise and understand depression and anxiety. This website is part of a national public health programme, the National Depression Initiative. It includes The Journal – an online self-help programme aimed at people aged more than 16 years.

HealthWEST(external link) – A Youth Health Hub that provides a range of free health services across WDHB.

Like Minds, Like Mine(external link) Like Minds, Like Mine is a national anti-stigma campaign. The aim of this programme is to increase social inclusion and to reduce stigma and discrimination towards people with experience of mental illness.

Mental Wealth(external link) An online mental health literacy education programme for young people.

Small Steps(external link) Whether you’re looking to maintain wellbeing, find relief or get help, Small Steps can support you and your whānau with practical tools, strategies and advice.

Togetherall(external link) An 24/7 online mental health and well-being service. Free for all Auckland DHB residents – see Healthpoint(external link). To register click here(external link) and enter your postcode.

Youthline – E-Therapy Package(external link). A free texting-based programme for young people with mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression.

Talking to a trained professional can be a really helpful way to work through anything that you are finding challenging. There are lots of different talk therapies. A widely used one called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you to change your thinking in order to change your behaviour.

You can ask your doctor for a referral or you can find a counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist(external link) yoursel. To find low-cost or free counselling in your area, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)(external link).

Here are some free and low-cost counselling options.

  • Ask your GP about free counselling sessions that may be available through your local primary health organisation (PHO).
  • You may be eligible for 10 free counselling sessions (or more if clinically indicated) and other assistance through a WINZ Disability Allowance.
  • If you are in paid employment you may be able to access free confidential counselling through your company’s employee assistance programme – talk to your employer.
  • Youthline has free counselling for young people aged 12–25 years and their families in various locations across Auckland and also Dunedin.
  • ACC funds support following sexual violence. Find out the details at FindSupport(external link).

Sometimes medication may be recommended by your doctor or mental health professional, especially if you have more severe symptoms of depression. It is usually recommended that you have talking therapy while you take medication. Read more about antidepressants.

It can help to talk to other people experiencing the same issues as yourself. Check out this list of in-person and online support groups. (external link) 

If there is nothing suitable listed here for you, ask your doctor or mental health professional whether there are any other groups in your area or you can try online forums. Look for online forums that have a moderator, whether that is a professional or a peer, to help keep you safe from any inappropriate online behaviour.

Mobile phone apps can be a useful tool for helping you to manage anxiety, stress, depression and general mental health. However, not all mental health apps are recommended, and some are suitable in some situations but not others. Healthify has reviewed mental health and wellbeing apps so you can find out which ones might work for you.

All district health boards now fund primary mental health services for young people (12–19 year olds) regardless of whether you are enrolled with a family doctor. There may also be specialist Māori and Pasifika services in your area.

These services are for people who meet mental illness criteria, so will usually need to be referred by your GP, your school’s pastoral team, nurse or counsellor.

Sometimes, if things get really hard for you and you develop a mental health condition and the community-based care described above is not working for you, you may need some time in hospital or other care to help you get back on track. This doesn’t happen to most people, but it’s useful to know it’s there as a back-up if things ever get really bad for you. Most people just need the right support at the right time and they get back on track again pretty quickly.

If your child or a loved one has been referred to mental health services, it can be a worrying and uncertain time.

You will probably have lots of questions – What will happen? What can I expect? Who will I speak to?

To make the experience easier, a series of informative new videos has been produced to help you navigate your way through child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

The Drive Series are resources is designed to help young people and their families navigate their way through child and adolescent mental health services. In this series they discuss the roles of healthcare professionals, what therapy looks like and medications.

Video: CAMHS Drive Series - Psychologist

Below is one video from the series.

Finding your way through child & adolescent mental health services. This video may take a few moments to load.

(Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Capital and Coast DHB, NZ, 2016)

For more videos of the same series, visit Drive Series(external link) Werry Workforce

Drive Series producer Dion Howard says he wants the videos to demystify CAMHS services and give people a heads up on the kind of people they might meet and what they can expect.

“The purpose of the videos is to decrease people’s sense of uncertainty they might have. We wanted to present a friendly face and for people to have an understanding of what it is CAMHS actually do,” Dion says.

Videos remove mystique around services

The videos, which are presented by Paraparaumu College head boy Harris Sciascia, were developed for Werry Workforce Whāraurau, a national centre for infant, child and adolescent mental health.

“The videos are easily digestible, appealing and remove the mystique surrounding youth mental health services. We begin each video by explaining what each person does in their job. For example, we found a lot of young people didn’t know exactly what a psychiatrist did. Hopefully, by explaining what each person does, a young person will feel better about seeing that provider.”

Dion also works as a registered nurse for Capital and Coast District Health Board as a dialectical behavioural therapist.

“We want to demystify mental health services, rather than shrouding them in layers of anonymity. We’re taking away the unknown, scary factor and by using real people in the videos, it makes it way more relatable.”

Dion is working on a second series, due out in December, which looks at different kinds of therapies that are available.

“I hope that after watching these videos, young people feel reassured there are caring places they can go where they can get help.”

Youth and Mental Health 101(external link) 30 minute course CAMH, NZ 
A course that provides information about mental health challenges, how to a conversation about mental health with others in your life advice on how to reach out for support.

Find more mental health courses here.

The following links provide further information about mental health support for young people. Be aware that websites from other countries may have information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.    

Information, resources and support(external link) Mental Health Foundation, NZ
Find out how to tell if someone is struggling with their mental health(external link) BBC, UK, 2021
Mental health Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ
Online NZ support to strengthen wellbeing Ignite(external link), NZ


  1. Mental health services – where to get help(external link) Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora

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