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Mike's Story

“We’re struggling to keep up with demand....students have told me it feels like we’re not taking their mental health seriously.”

Mike Greenslade is on the frontline of child and youth mental health.  With more than 28 years working as a counsellor in primary and secondary schools, he’s seen it all.

Today, he sees so much more of it.

“We are unsustainably busy.  We have an outstanding team who are deeply committed but we are going at a rate that we can’t keep going at,” says Mike.

Mike is the head of the Counselling Department and Student Support Faculty at Burnside High School, the country’s second largest secondary school. 

“Adolescence can be hard and today the frequency and intensity of the big issues young people face has been exacerbated by circumstances such as earthquakes, terror attacks, pandemics and then add in the huge factor of social media.

“There have always been students at the more serious end of mental health need.  We’ve got more students there now.”

Burnside High School has four full-time counsellors, with this year an extra counsellor being hired for Term Four.  They also have up to four interns from the University of Canterbury working at the school.

“We have the most amazing support from our principal, senior leadership team and board, however we are still struggling to keep up with demand.”

When Mike and his counselling team have a student in greater need they work with GPs and the Child, Adolescent and Family service at the Canterbury DHB.  The facility is not a place he likes to go to.

“First impressions count.  If you go to a place that feels uncared for, then you feel uncared for.  When you go to a CAF outpatients facility, it’s like people don’t take it seriously.  Building, furnishings, environment – no one is taking it seriously.  They have amazing clinicians there but they are starting on the back foot.”

Mike says at times the environment makes it hard to encourage young people to engage in treatment.

“You’re taking young people into an environment where they don’t know what they are going to encounter.  Waiting rooms where you don’t know if you will see someone you know.  We had one young person that we worked hard to get there, but then they got halfway through the door and saw someone they knew, turned around and left.  We couldn’t get them to come back.”

The way young people describe the facility is chilling.

“Some of our students have told me it’s like a dungeon or the place no one cares about.  One student said they feel like they’re at the bottom of the heap in the health system.”

Mike says you can see the CAF staff are unhappy with the facilities they’re working in and you can understand why.

“We need an outpatient facility that reflects the needs of those working there and their patients.  A facility that speaks of welcome and care.  A place that when people go there they know their concerns will be taken seriously.  That when they go there, they matter. This matters. That we value them.”


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