Teen tells of lack of mental health support despite abuse in state care

A teenager who has spent his entire life in the care of the state says the government is failing to address the mental health of young vulnerable people.

A report from the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission found that one in four young people in need of mental health care were being admitted to adult services due to a lack of age-appropriate units around the country.

Read the full report: Te Huringa Tuarua Youth Services Focus Report

Ihorangi Reweti-Peters, 17, has lived in care since he was only a few months old.

His memories of foster care were a ‘living nightmare’, the Christchurch teenager said.

“I had a rough time in care. I was faced with racism, discrimination, physical, emotional and on one count sexual abuse.

“Those experiences in family homes, in foster homes were awful and no young person should have faced what I have.”

Reweti-Peters spoke last year in the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry about his experience.

He said his mental health suffered.

“During that time, I had very bad anxiety and I was struggling with building relationships and trusting people.

“My mental health was quite poor, and I wasn’t provided with any mental health and or counselling support,” he said.

And without support, reality became too much, he said.

“In 2020 I attempted to take my own life, and following on from there I attempted to take my life more times.”

Reweti-Peters was one of many tamariki struggling to find adequate mental health support according to a recent report from the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

The report showed despite specifications for age-appropriate mental health care for children and teenagers at DHBs, only three units in the country offered the service: Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The 2018 government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction heard concerns about the practice of admitting young people to adult services.

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