Health professionals update on the Youth Mental Health Project

February 2015

In this update:


The Youth Mental Health Project is implementing 26 initiatives designed to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people. The project, aimed at 12- to 19-year-olds, is provided through families and communities, schools, health services and is also online.

This update includes some of the health services which may help health professionals assist young people.

DHBs extend primary mental health services to youth

Primary mental health services are available to all young people aged 12 to 19 who are experiencing mild to moderate mental health and/or addiction issues. This includes assessment, treatment and, when needed, ongoing management in the community.

Young people can access psychological therapies and other psychosocial interventions through the Youth Mental Health Project.

Funded support includes:

  • extended general practitioner or practice nurse consultations
  • brief intervention counselling
  • individual packages of care
  • group therapy.

For more information, please contact your local DHB.

E-therapy SPARX provides online support

SPARX is a self-help tool which uses an online game-style format to help young people deal with stress and learn strategies to cope with feeling down and to help them to feel good again. Young people can use the tool anonymously in their own time and own space, which provides another avenue for those not accessing professional help. SPARX is designed to help young people who are experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues.

A partnership with Youthline and Lifeline also provides clinical back up to SPARX users. The phone line 0508 4 SPARX is staffed by professional counsellors 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Visit the SPARX website, which includes SPARX training for health professionals.

Training to assess youth wellbeing

HEEADSSS helps assess youth wellbeing through a series of questions relating to home, education/employment, eating, activities, drugs, sexuality, suicide and depression, and safety (HEEADSSS). The Werry Centre, in collaboration with other agencies, has developed the eLearning module – Introduction to HEEADSSS for primary care practitioners which provides an introduction to the assessment framework. The Youth Mental Health Project work around HEEADSSS also included a series of nationwide workshops which are now complete.

Improving wait-times and follow-up care

Work is under way with DHBs to speed up waiting times and follow-up care for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and youth alcohol and other drug services. By 2015, 95% of young people will be expected to have had their first contact within 8 weeks of referral. Recent data from DHBs shows that 81% of youth aged 19 or under were seen within 3 weeks of contacting a youth alcohol and drug service – that’s an 8% lift on 2012. Thanks to everyone who is supporting this work.

Exemplar services model care

Alcohol and other drug services are an important contributor to the health and wellbeing of young people. Two models of youth exemplar services have been set up in Northland and Southern DHBs to help with the development of services nationally. Both are joint ventures between the DHB and a local non-governmental organisation and include flexible hours and mobile services to assist young people access help more easily.

Whanganui, Bay of Plenty, Capital & Coast and Waikato DHBs are also integrating services and improving access through additional funding.

Best practice transition guidelines piloted

Transition planning is critical to achieving the best outcomes for young people receiving alcohol and other drug services. These best practice guidelines aim to better support the transition of young people from these services. Following a successful pilot, DHBs are now implementing these guidelines as part of their discharge planning.

Support for Youth One Stop Shops

An additional $8.6 million funding for Youth One Stop Shops (YOSS) made available through the Youth Mental Health Project recognises the role YOSS play in delivering services to young people, some of whom don’t access health or social support from anywhere else. Some YOSS are also delivering alcohol and other drug services as part of a $1.6 million joint Social Sector Trials initiative across the country. Find out about YOSS in your area.

Over a third more students have access to School Based Health Services

Around 55,000 young people can now access nurses in schools, following the expansion of School Based Health Services to decile 3 secondary schools under the Youth Mental Health Project.

As part of the School Based Health Service a HEEADSSS wellness assessment is carried out for year 9 students by a nurse. Any medical or mental health issues can be identified and students can be referred on for further treatment. Factsheet: Expanded school-based health services making a difference

Initiatives to support youth mental health

  • SPARX – A self-help e-therapy tool in an online game-style format that young people can use in their own space.
  • Common Ground – A place for family, whānau and friends to help our young people enjoy positive mental health and wellbeing.
  • One Voice – One voice can make a difference, that’s the message in this project about bullying and the importance of supporting each other.
  • Lifehack – The team runs a social innovation lab and incubator weekends to co-create projects that promote young people’s wellbeing.
  • Mood Diary App – A free iPhone Mood Diary App had been developed by the Phobic Trust, which allows young people to monitor their mood daily.
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