Healthy Harold teams up with Barnados helpline to support the mental wellbeing of tamariki across Aotearoa

Harold at 0800WhatsUp

Barnardos and Life Education Trust are joining efforts to support the mental wellbeing of tamariki across the country.

School-aged children attending the Healthy Harold programme on health and wellbeing will now be able to learn about the free counselling helpline, 0800 What’s Up, and understand how to get help from trained counsellors, either via chat or over the phone.

Barnardos 0800 What’s Up is the only helpline in Aotearoa offering free counselling service to tamariki and rangatahi from 5-19 years. As the largest health education provider in the country, Life Education Trust has educators, and its mascot Harold, the giraffe working with 86% of New Zealand primary and intermediate schools. Educators cover identity, self-worth, resilience, peer pressure, the effects of bullying, being kind to others and where to go for help, including, now, 0800 What’s Up.

“Schools have increasingly been asking for support in the critical area of mental health and wellbeing. Our reporting shows that 88% of school leaders see anxiety as an issue for students, with 35% reporting it as a significant issue, so we’re hoping to support these young people through this partnership,” says Life Education Trust Chief Executive, John O’Connell.

“Through our early intervention approach, our Barnardos trained counsellors focus on helping build resilience, empowering children and young people by supporting them to solve their own problems, providing tools and strategies, before things get too hard,” says Barnardos Chief Executive, Mike Munnelly.

This unique partnership between the two organisations hopes to help thousands of tamariki going through difficult times.

“The iconic Harold the giraffe and Life Education Trust’s educators will be great advocates for 0800 What’s Up, helping us reach all tamariki who needs us across Aotearoa,” says Munnelly.

“It is reassuring for tamariki to know that if they feel overwhelmed they can speak to or web chat with a counsellor skilled in working with young people," says O’Connell.

- The most common topics young people contact 0800 What’s Up are about are mental distress, , loneliness, depression, anxiety, relationships and family issues, suicide and bullying
- These topics are also commonly requested by schools to be covered in Life Education Trust’s Healthy Harold lessons. Last year, 65% of lessons focused on relationships or identity and resilience (including mental health).
- The e-chat counselling sessions take an average chat time of 28 minutes compared to 6 minutes for the phone calls. The average time spent with callers and chatters has increased significantly and the seriousness of the issues discussed in a chat has also been highlighted.
- In 2021, we saw a 31 percentage increase in e-chat demand at 0800 What’s Up, in part because of the pressures of Covid-19 but also because of the increased wait times for other mental health and wellbeing services around New Zealand.
- In 2022, the issue of bullying tends to be overshadowed by the growing mental distress and wellbeing related issues children and young people are experiencing. However, bullying is not an issue that has disappeared.

0800 What’s Up is one of the services offered by Barnardos. It is New Zealand’s only national children’s helpline – over the 21 years of service, 0800 What’s Up has answered almost 1.5 million calls and answered over 29,000 chats. Young people can reach out through our phone or via chats, from 11am-11pm, seven days a week, via or 0800 942 8787. Children can call or chat about anything at all - they don’t have to wait until crisis point to call and talk things over. Since merging with Kidsline in January 2021, 0800 What’s Up is now the only national helpline of its type for those aged 5-19 nationwide.