As children and teenagers prepare to return to school, Emma Russell speaks to two Auckland mothers and authors about setting themselves up with inner strength and self-confidence.
Joanne Webb still feels the rippling effects of getting an abortion at age 14.
"It was hideous. Medical staff treated me like a scumbag."
When she got home from the hospital, no one talked about it. Instead, she returned to school as if the trauma she had suffered never happened.
As a result, she battled depression on and off for the next 20 years.
Sue O'Callaghan lost her mum to cancer when she was in her late teens.
"She was sick all through my teenage years and I felt all this rejection, because my mum couldn't meet my needs."
When her mum died, her friends all walked away because they didn't know how to talk about death at that age.
"I lost all my friends ... I screwed up all my relationships because they say when you lose your mum, you lose your home."
Both women have opened up about their raw and deeply personal stories with hundreds of struggling Kiwi teens. Each time they do, they say it's like a pin drops.
"Your story doesn't need to be the same as teenagers', they just need to know you have been through some crap."
A mantra that's guided them through the formation of their newly released book, Hate Myself Hate My Life, aimed at teens and parents.
From struggling to find a sense of belonging to bullying as a means of projecting self-hurt, the pair have collated a string of relatable experiences from teens they have worked with and developed practical ideas, exercises and tips designed to empower and build resilience.
"I remember when the book arrived and my eldest son  opened up the book and seemed quite impressed. He posted something on his social media saying 'proud mum moment', which was like, wow," Webb said.
Other teens read it and said they cried all the way through because it was just so relatable.
The book begins with a moving letter written by a 17-year-old endorsing the book's value.
"Social media shows us visions of perfections — perfect lives lived out in perfect bodies by seemingly perfect people. And then we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. We often want what they appear to have — whoever they are? It sure is confusing at times," the teen writes.
"At the same time, we are told, we are spoilt, we have no idea and we have no resilience. Our identity is confused. Our innocence has been stolen, our dreams shattered and our hope has gone. Where do we turn for help?"
At the time when this teen was falling into patterns of self-destruction, this book talked to them and made them realise they weren't alone, that their feelings were normal and that there were things they could do to help.
Down a long beachside driveway in Devonport, laughter echoes through the timber walls of Webb's home.
Inside, Webb and O'Callaghan are chatting over a cup of peppermint tea as if they have known each other their whole lives.
In truth, they met only two years ago. Through shared experiences and a passion for helping empower others they quickly became each other's go-to person.
"I phone Jo and say, 'I'm in the fetal position, come and get me' and she says, 'I'm coming around.' And that's real, it's normal life and it's important to accept how we are feeling rather than put up these facades."
O'Callaghan spent 15 years raising hundreds of children in boarding schools. She's taught in prisons, coached sport, worked in outdoor education and ran her own company called Teenage Toolbox, a place for teens and parents to come and find support for all things confusing, challenging and tough.
She's also published her own story of having her three children abducted while she was pregnant with her fourth, in a book called Taken.
Webb is a personal trainer who has completed ultramarathons and taught psychological and physical resilience. She started a self-love coaching company called The Happiness Hustler.
Webb grew up with a father in prison, had an abortion when she was 14 years old and survived an abusive relationship.
Passing these two women down the street, you would never know the trauma they have faced.
"Most people think those who walk with their shoulders back and heads held high are confident but actually walking that way helps you to feel confident and more empowered," O'Callaghan says.
In 2019, the pair, each with four children, started a podcast series called Pods with Posh and Pool in a bid to disrupt the theory that everyone has perfect lives.
The series included interviews with Jane Weekes, a mum who lost her triplets in the Doha shopping mall in Qatar; Mark Mandeno, who became a quadriplegic after a surfing accident and runs the outdoor bound education centre; and Tammie Horton, CEO of Phynix Initiative, who survived bullying, self-harming and domestic abuse.
"It's designed to inspire and challenge listeners ... to face adversity, learn from suffering and discover to embrace life with a heart filled with love and gratitude," O'Callaghan says.
They created ManPODS and TeenPODs, especially for men and teens.
"The feedback we were getting from university professors and psychologists is that the power of story and 'lived experience' in impacting and transforming lives is significant because it connects abstract concepts with reality," she says.
"The defining factor is not only engaging minds in a teaching situation but also emotion."
That feedback provided the pair with the motivation to use their own experiences with teens in the book for teens and parents.
"'Hate myself, hate my life' are the first words teens often say to us when we ask them what's wrong."
The book unravels six challenges teens are often faced with and provides practical exercises to master each one. They include finding self-love, discovering identity, building resilience, using clear and concise communication, enjoying healthy relationships and understanding anxiety.
Like most people, these were all lessons Webb and O'Callaghan learned later in life.
It wasn't until Webb met a life coach who encouraged her to revisit that day in hospital when she had the abortion that she begun to heal.
"I looked at myself and who I am now. I spoke to my 14-year-old self and told her things my mum never could say to me."
She realised how that trauma propelled rippling effects that navigated the rest of her life because she had never dealt with it.
"I went to look for love in all the wrong places because I didn't feel loved at home. That sounds awful, because my parents are beautiful people."
Webb refers to Dr Gary Chapman's theory of The Five Love Languages, which includes acts of service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time and words of affirmation.
According to this philosophy, each person has one primary and one secondary love language.
Chapman theorised that people tend to naturally give love in the way that they prefer to receive love and better communication can be accomplished when one can demonstrate caring to the other person in the love language the recipient understands.
"I didn't get hugged or told I was loved, yet my mum did everything for me around the house. Acts of services. She sat down and did a jigsaw puzzle with me, taught me how to read and write.
"They were all beautiful things but I still had this feeling that I wasn't loved and I wasn't enough."
Webb still cries when talking about it but no longer are her tears for herself, they are for others in pain.
"We see such pain in these young people and it's heartbreaking."
By the end of this year, the pair plan to have two copies of their book available at every secondary school in the country.
"We hope it will be something children and teens can pick up and flick through when they need to, to know they are not alone."
Hate Myself Hate My Life (Indie Experts, $29.99). To purchase a copy see the authors' website, podswithposhandpool.com
My Journey Starts Here
Jazz Thornton, 25, remembers the loneliness she carried on her shoulders while living on the streets as a teen, with no one to turn to.
She'd run away from sexual abuse, a delusion of normal that she'd lived with since she was 3 years old. Then school bullying started.
Thornton was 12 when she first tried to take her own life. It wouldn't be the only time.
"After one attempt, they tried to take me to hospital but the hospital wouldn't admit me because I didn't have a next-of-kin."
She spent nine years in and out of hospital and mental health wards fighting her own mind.
Now, she wishes she could tell her teenage-self that there is hope.
"No matter how dark you feel there is always hope. I stand as proof of that," Thornton says.
Genevieve Mora, 26, is also proof.
At the age of 14 she was hospitalised to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia and anxiety.
"I had completely isolated myself from all my friends. They'd ask to come visit me and hospital and I didn't let them. I really didn't want to see people.
"I thought no one knew I was sick but it turns out the whole school knew," Mora says.
When you're being thrown into the hospital system or you're in the dark it can feel like it's never going to end, Mora says.
"I just wish someone had told me I was going to get through it and I was going to be okay."
Together the pair have created a journal called My Journey Starts Here for people who are struggling to see the light.
Its pages are filled with space for personal reflection, goal-setting, organising support systems and creating strategies for difficult moments. All are tools that helped Mora and Thornton get through to the other side.
Some are exercises psychologists had given Mora but most are coping mechanisms they developed on their own.
With inspirational quotes, gratitude exercises, colouring-in pages and where to find help, it provides a practical and creative outlet for those struggling with mental health or simply looking to improve their personal outlook on life.
"There wasn't anything like this when we were at our lowest. I wish there was," Mora says.
The journal was released worldwide on January 5 before being available in New Zealand on January 19.
In 2014, Thornton and Mora launched a non-profit organisation called Voices of Hope, aimed to break the stigma around mental illness, to decrease suicide rates and show that hope is real and help is available.
The duo were awarded the Commonwealth Points of Light Award, which was created by the Queen, as the head of Commonwealth, to thank inspirational volunteers for making a difference in their communities.
Their first campaign, "Dear Suicidal Me", received more than 800 million views worldwide.
Both women echo comments from O'Callaghan and Webb about the power of sharing lived experiences.
"For a very long time we were lacking in lived experienced stories. There was quite a big stigma in New Zealand of not sharing the struggles that you've been through and it was very taboo. I think over the last five or so years we have seen quite a significant shift on that.
"A lot of the people who are creating this type of content and speaking out are the ones that wished they had that," Thornton said.
Advice for kids heading back to school who might be struggling
• It's important to share your feelings with someone you trust, whether that's a parent, counsellor, friend or teacher.
• Be kind to yourself and take it slow.
Advice for parents who are noticing their child is struggling
• Don't discredit their struggle.
• Be open to conversation, ask them how they are going and take the time to listen. Give them space to respond. Make it part of your everyday routine.
My Journey Starts Here (Penguin NZ, $30)
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.