Recently Youth Affairs Minister Nikki Kaye released the latest survey about the health and wellbeing of New Zealand secondary school students.
Youth 2012 is the third in the Youth 2000 Survey Series. The previous two were conducted in 2001 and 2007. In the 2012 survey, 8500 students from 91 randomly selected schools from around the country answered up to 600 questions on all aspects of their lives.
Compared to 10 years ago, a number of critical life measures has improved considerably for young people. The survey shows clear evidence of a reduction in tobacco, alcohol and drug use by youth over this time period. It shows schools are improving support systems for students to keep them engaged in education and most students report caring and supportive families.
However, the survey shows some areas we need to focus on. Among the mix, mental health of our youth remains a long standing issue. The percentage of males with significant depressive symptoms increased in 2012 - 21 per cent of female students and 10 per cent of male students had seriously thought about suicide in the previous 12 months, and 6 per cent of female students and 2 per cent of male students had made a suicide attempt during the same time period.
More than 20 people committed suicide in Hawke's Bay in 2011 and about 15 attempt to take their own life each month, according to Hawke's Bay District Health Board findings. Suicide rates are generally highest among 15-24 and 25-44 year olds and while there had been a decline in suicide rates for 15-24 year olds from 2000- 2008, more recent increases in youth suicide rates has offset this.
Too many of our youth are dying and our families and communities are calling for reprieve. Murals and the like are being painted on our town walls as tributes to precious lives that should never have been lost.
Facebook pages are being created and charitable trusts are being established to act as vehicles of hope and support to grieving and challenged families in this area.
One such trust locally is Te TaiTimu Trust which featured on TV Monday evening. Te Taitimu, established by the Makoare family, is about turning the tide and bringing good from the tragic loss of their son, brother, grandchild, friend and treasured child Kelly Hikiera Makoare.
The trust works to help empower children, youth and families using the ocean and programmes and initiatives associated with it to heal, restore and rehabilitate one another, and for the environment to serve as a model of health.
Suicide is a deep and dark issue that no one likes to talk about. Many people such as our Makoare family do magnificent to bring light from the dark. However no life should ever be lost to suicide and no family should suffer. Until suicide is eradicated then we as a caring society, of which I'm proud that Kiwis are, need to awaken from our slumber that seemingly accepts and tolerates suicide and step up to support and develop resistance to the consuming epidemic.
The youth survey series builds a rich and compelling picture of the health and development or otherwise of young New Zealanders and highlights the key areas of importance that we as a society needs to invest in order to nurture positive, healthy and vibrant generations of New Zealanders. The findings are envisaged to be valuable, and I hope go some way to assist policymakers, schools, parents and caregivers and our society on this front.
Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings District Council Flaxmere ward councillor.