Stressed Teenagers Reluctant To Seek Formal Help – New NZ Research

Stressed Teenagers Reluctant To Seek Formal Help – New NZ Research

Young New Zealanders who are experiencing stress are more
likely to seek help from friends and families than from
counsellors or other specialists, according to a new study
published in Stress and Health journal, raising
questions about how effective the help they receive may
be.

Lead researcher, Dr
Valerie Sotardi from the University of Canterbury (UC),
says it’s vital that young people feel they can ask for
help, before their stress escalates into more serious mental
health challenges.

“It’s not just a matter of
accessibility – that talking to their friends is way faster
and doesn’t cost them anything as opposed to going to a
professional service – it’s also reflecting their beliefs
about whether formal help will be useful and whether they
feel as though they need that level of help,” Dr Sotardi
says.

Informal help from friends and family, however,
is not always effective.

“Do they know how to
actively listen, how to ask good questions, how to normalise
the problem and reassure the young person that they will be
OK?”

Training teens to provide good
support

A solution could be creating resources to
show teenagers how to respond effectively when their friends
need to discuss their problems, Dr Sotardi says, similar to
online resources she created for Ako Aotearoa to help
students cope with assessment
anxiety.

“We can create interventions or
programmes that help friends or family members to learn how
to receive and provide effective support,” she says. “If
we can find interventions that are cost effective, which is
the reality of the situation, then best practice is training
teenagers and adults to listen and give good advice, and
those seem like good skills to have anyway.”

This
training should start quite young, she suggests. “One of
the important questions that we want to understand is when
to start preparing young people, because I don’t want a
child to wait until they’re 18 and are now just learning
basic coping strategies to seek help. I want them to learn
that in primary school so by the time things get difficult
in secondary school they’ve got those skill sets equipped
and practised.”

Young people who don’t seek
help

While students were more likely to seek informal
support from friends and family, many in the sample group of
1600 students in Canterbury and Auckland showed a reluctance
to ask for any type of help.

“There was a huge
reluctance among students to seek help. In general, it was
abysmal and it is really frustrating to see. Some students
would not seek help in any situation even given a range of
options, from a counsellor or GP, what we could call formal
help, to friends or talking to family and whanau,” she
says.

“It’s hard to see because if students can’t
seek help when they’re stressed it is no surprise that
they’re not getting the support they need.”

Those
who experienced school-related or personal stress (the study
measured both) were also more likely to have lower wellbeing
scores and lower perceptions of their achievement at school,
the findings suggest.

The study surveyed 13 to 19
year-olds from Christchurch and Auckland about their stress
levels, help seeking intentions, life satisfaction (the
technical term for wellbeing) and subjective perceptions of
achievement at school. The survey was conducted before the
effects of Covid-19 impacted on the
students.

Co-authors on the paper Adolescent
stress, helpseeking intentions, subjective achievement
and life satisfaction in New Zealand: Tests of mediation,
moderated mediation and moderation
were
Penelope Watson from the University of Auckland (UA), Dr
Cara Swit from UC, Deepika Roy from UA and Maansa Bajaj
from
UC.

© Scoop Media

 

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