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Putting youth needs on the map

When it comes to keeping our young people safe and well, we all have a part to play, says Dr Sue Bagshaw.

Dr Bagshaw has spent over 30 years working with youth, championing their rights and needs. Her mission now is to have a ‘Youth One Stop Shop’ in “every city that features on the weather map”.

The renowned doctor is currently working to get an enlarged one-stop shop for youth in Christchurch over the line.

She says the concept is well overdue.

“It’s always been hard for young people… now you’ve got all the challenges of what people think of you, which has been amplified through social media. On top of that is this belief that success is about you doing well no matter who else is doing well and if you haven’t done well you haven’t tried hard enough and you’re a failure. That creates an immense amount of pressure.”

Dr Bagshaw says a youth one stop shop would concentrate a raft of youth-focussed services and Government agencies in one place so young people “can have that great safe environment where they can have the help they need to not only overcome the adverse child experiences they’ve had but also have positive ones”.

“The services already exist – we’re just wanting to bring them to one place, making it easier for organisations to work together. We need one in every city mentioned on the weather map.”

Nurses, counsellors and doctors will be on site, as well as advocacy groups including QTopia and Shakti. There would also be a hub with creativity and recreational facilities, and housing options for those wanting to learn about independent living, and for those in need of respite housing.

“Although most young people are doing well, at least 20% aren’t and those that are doing well still need access to creativity and recreation without a cost barrier. That’s why a Hub which mixes the two is helpful to remove stigma, and place an emphasis on hauora.”

While it’s been a rollercoaster project, Dr Bagshaw is determined to see it through. She encourages others around the country to follow suit.

“I am keen for it to be set up as a prototype it can be done in other areas,” she says

Dr Bagshaw says there are a lot of young people – particularly in Christchurch - dealing with complex and acute distress and the impact of adverse childhood experiences, including the earthquakes.

“There is also poverty and COVID has again contributed to that showing up a huge gap in those who earn and those who don’t.”

She also sees people “literally just surviving on the benefit”.

“Children who are brought up in those kinds of environments, where family are trying to make ends meet, those are all adverse childhood experiences which are creating delays in development and difficulties in overcoming those adverse experiences.”

Dr Bagshaw says there is proof that with the right help and the right person listening to young people however, positive change can occur.

“Whether it’s a teacher or sport coach or doctor or nurse - they can do really well. And forming those relationships outside those stressful relationships they’re in, is really powerful so what we’re trying to do is encourage that manaakitanga in the Youth Hub.”

Dr Bagshaw says there are things we can all do to give young people a safe and secure space:

  • Listening to them so they feel heard
  • Validating their emotions
  • Stopping medicalising emotions that aren’t happy – we all have down days and we all have good days
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