What are the biggest issues facing teens today?

A survey reveals the biggest issues facing Kiwi youth and how they're reaching out

By Keren Sim
The top five issues facing young people today are alcohol, drugs, bullying, peer pressure and self-esteem, according to a survey undertaken by helpline service Youthline.*
However, significantly fewer young people now are smoking cigarettes, binge drinking, trying marijuana or engaging in risk-taking behaviour (such as drink driving) compared to 14 years ago.**
Youthline also found that more teens are using texts to reach out for support, as a solution to the ‘embarrassment’ factor that can sometimes stop young people from speaking out.
Over the 2014-15 period, Youthline received 80,085 contacts from young people seeking support, and 91% of these came through via text message.
“Many different barriers have been identified including financial, lack of youth-friendly health services, concerns over privacy and confidentiality, and transportation, but over the years in our regular surveys we have consistently seen that the biggest barrier is embarrassment,” Youthline CEO Stephen Bell said.
“Texting has certainly made it a lot easier for marginalised communities to reach out.”
Young Kiwis have turned to Youthline for help with many different issues, with 15% of calls about depression, 14% about family or peer relationships and 12% about partner relationships or suicide.
A further 9% of calls are about self-harm, 7% about fear and anxiety, 4% about bullying and 2% about grief and loss or sexual violence.
Mr Bell says the organisation has noticed a “significant increase” this year in issues related to self-harm and immediate risk of harm from suicide.
“Our support teams are also needing to learn more about cultural competency for working with gay and transgender young people,” he said.
“It’s important we know how to help, because those who are not supported in the way they need to be are significantly more likely to have issues with self-esteem, being accepted, peer pressure, suicide, eating disorders, drugs, sexual abuse, spirituality and gender.”*
*2014 Youthline State of the Generation Survey
** Youth’12 research between 2001 and 2012

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