Champion of city’s youth: Interview with Dr Sue Bagshaw

The physical scars of the Canterbury quakes are almost fully healed. But below the surface, the mental scars remain.

Dr Sue Bagshaw

In line with international research showing the long term mental health effects of natural disasters, demand for mental health, addiction and domestic violence services has skyrocketed in Canterbury post-quake. As demand for child and youth mental health services soars, it can take months for specialist treatment for some of the most severe mental health problems.
From her first ever job in student health at the university, to her involvement with Family Planning and the Methadone Programme, Dr Sue Bagshaw has been heavily invested in improving youth outcomes. “In those roles we came across a lot of young people that were in boxes,” she says.
“So we asked young people what they wanted and that was the birth of the Youth One Stop Shop.”
Designed to increase accessibility for youth, the One Stop Shop concept brought together medical, physical, sexual, mental and even social health services under one roof, with Christchurch’s 198 Youth Health Centre one of the first of its kind.
“Individually we can only provide so much with a small budget,” Dr Bagshaw says.
“We thought why not work together with other organisations. By bringing them all together we can be a lot more efficient and more effective.”
After providing free health services to young people for 15 years, lack of funding forced its closure in 2010. But Dr Bagshaw was determined to bring these integral services back to the city and, in 2012, she and Peter Young from Action Works brought 16 youth organisations together to form the first youth hub in Barbadoes Street.
Despite unprecedented need for these collective services over the past three years, the individual need for bigger, better spaces has seen the organisations disperse and Dr Bagshaw has been on a tireless crusade since 2015 to develop a purpose-built hub to bring them all back together.
The Anglican Church’s social service agency has stepped in to help, purchasing the old Salisbury Street bowling club site last year for $4 million. Now Dr Bagshaw is focused on raising the $10 million to make it happen.
Co-designed by youth, for youth, the most important feature will be transitional accommodation for young people to stay for 3-18 months while they find work. “While they’re there, they will have access to all the services around them they need for support,” Dr Bagshaw says.
Youth workers will be in residence overnight, there will be a drop in centre, spaces to provide activities such as art, music and acting, outdoor ball courts and on site services including legal aid. Importantly, a social enterprise hub will support young people with good ideas but lack of opportunity, to become social entrepreneurs.
“We’re living in a generation that is all about ‘me’. It’s become more about competition and less about community. We’ve all had enough of that. The poverty gap has got bigger. We know we need a new story,” Dr Bagshaw says.
“This is about doing things together. People working in silo doesn’t help our young people. This is about cooperation, not competition.”

For more information, visit www.youthhubchch.org.nz