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Clinical psychologist Steve Williams has initiated a new mental health ‘hub’ specifically for the Thames Valley. Photo: Kelley Tantau

Mental health ‘hub’ connects kids with help

Steve Williams is a busy man.
When The Profile sits down with him inside his Paeroa clinic, it is between appointments, and he is wearing a brightly-patterned waistcoat, the fabric of which was given to him by a former patient, a young girl who knew of his penchant for formalwear.
He says he sees between five and eight young people a day, who are either overcoming trauma, overwhelming anxiety, or low moods.
“I think our kids are, basically, just awesome human beings. The teenagers I’ve worked with are some of the most empathic, caring young people, and the reason they struggle with the world is because the world is not a very empathic, caring place at times,” he says.
Steve is a Thames-based clinical psychologist who has spent decades working with adolescents. He has met young people with anger issues, drug or alcohol dependency, depression, grief and trauma, and abusive backgrounds.
While he admits his Paeroa clinic is rather “grey”, there are soft toys in the corner and on more than one occasion, he has brought out his replica Lord of the Rings sword to teach young boys about self-control and regulating emotions.
He says that since Covid-19, in which young people were constantly warned of the dangers of the pandemic, and the rise of “doom scrolling” on social media, young people are facing more challenges than ever.
“They are under more pressure in terms of their well-being than any previous generation because they are exposed to so much in the media that is essentially doom and gloom,” he says, “and people are impacted when they’re surrounded by doom and gloom.”
But Steve says mental health challenges for young people have always been present, the only difference is that back in the day, kids were told to “harden up”.
“And as a result, you have people in their 60s and 70s who are not that happy but have never had any help, and what I have found is that often, the stuff that upsets them has been upsetting them for a really long time,” he says.
“If we can work with people when they’re young and resolve their distress when they’re young, we save the adult mental health services 40 or 50 years of trying to support people not coping with the world. So, the money should all be in child and adolescent mental health, but it’s not.”
Steve is speaking from experience. He explains that there were times when he was growing up where he wasn’t a very happy kid.
“There were no services. I basically had to suck it up and deal with it,” he says.
“When I got older, I thought: ‘This is really crappy. There has got to be people who actually give a shit.”
So that’s why Steve has initiated a new mental health ‘hub’ specifically for the Thames Valley.
He has established an online website that connects families with clinicians who specialise in working with children and adolescents.
The aim of the hub is to help those in need find the right assistance, with rural services often being limited or riddled with long waitlists.
“I am not willing to see another young person do themselves in because they can’t find the right help,” Steve says.
His plan is to have a one-stop-shop website, with details of all the counsellors, services, and non-governmental organisations on offer in the Thames-Coromandel and Hauraki districts.
There are already six clinicians whose details are listed on the site, and Steve is encouraging all reputable workers with a focus on tamariki and rangitahi to get in touch.
“At some point I’m going to want to retire and I don’t want to get to that point having done nothing that enables good services to continue for young people,” he says.
“I want to create something that is so good that we can attract other clinicians to our area, knowing what a great group of people we’ve got here.”
DETAILS: For more information on the hub or to get in touch with Steve or another clinician, visit: