National's Mental Health spokesman wants the Government to convene a youth mental health summit to look at ways to help young people struggling with the mental health impacts of the pandemic.
Doocey said early evidence from New Zealand and around the world showed the pandemic was having an impact on the mental health of young people and a summit was one way the Government could brainstorm a policy response to the crisis.
"I think what we are seeing overseas is concerning and it's very clear whether it be in Australia, the UK, or America, they are seeing the effects of the pandemic on younger people's mental health," Doocey said.
He said a summit would mean the Government's response to the crisis could be "proactive rather than reactive – and get in early to respond to the early signs".
Doocey wrote to Health Minister Andrew Little on Tuesday, urging him to convene such a summit.
"What we want to do is bring the best minds together round the table, that would be a mix of people working in youth mental health at the moment, academics and researchers and younger people with lived experience.
I'd like a cross-party mix as well. What we want is an all-of-government response to this," Doocey said.
Little confirmed he had received the letter on Tuesday, but did not stipulate on what his response might be.
"My office can confirm it received a letter from Matt Doocey at 2pm today. I am surprised Mr Doocey has gone to the media before awaiting a response," Little said.
Doocey's letter cited recent international and domestic evidence that there may be an uptick in mental health concerns thanks to the pandemic.
Doocey said "Australian mental health professionals are calling declining youth mental health a shadow pandemic, the United Kingdom is reporting the inability of youth mental health services to respond to surging waiting times, while in the United States the Surgeon General has warned of the devastating impact of the pandemic on young people".
Doocey said that recent "research from the University of Auckland confirmed a pandemic related increase in demand for eating disorder services for young people.
"Recently published data for dispensing of antidepressants by the Ministry of Health during the first year of the pandemic shows a disproportionate increase for younger people compared to other age group," he wrote.
- by Thomas Coughlan, NZ Herald