Benjamin Franklin said wine is constant proof God loves us and loves to see us happy. To that recipe for happiness I would add books, and there is nothing like the summer break stretching ahead, with hours of reading time, to make me ecstatic.

It's beyond me how those P-bloody-P-T-bloody-A teachers (as Tom Scott's Mr Gormsby so irreverently referred to the union) and their mulish principals can deliberately falsify test results just because they don't want national standards reflecting badly on their schools. Denying children the chance to read is child molestation of the mind. The perpetrators should be incarcerated.

But like real paedophiles, they see no harm in their behaviour. They are simply doing what they think is right - it is the authorities who are out of step and should change their policies.

Meanwhile, more of our youth will be lost to crime, mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction and suicide. This week coroner Ian Smith pleaded with Government to learn from the death of Teremoana Jacobs, aged 22, from pneumonia after attempting suicide.

Hearteningly, New Zealand's once frighteningly high suicide figures are coming down, but that doesn't mean we should relax, and one can understand coroners like Smith speaking out when confronted with the sadness of Jacobs' life.

When she was 3 her mother died and she was placed in social welfare care. Her father died when she was 16. Passed around like a parcel, she suffered from depression, stole to pay for her school lunches, and had several previous attempts at suicide.

Coroner Smith in his findings said her story is "all too familiar to me as a coroner" and wants "Teremoana's life story told in some detail so that at least history can show what this young woman had to endure that may have led to her untimely death".

In other words, unless we learn from history, we're bound to repeat it. And that I don't doubt, unless we heed Smith's recommendations to government, which includes lost young people like Jacobs having "a rock of stability" in their lives.

A book I've enjoyed this week is Darkness Visible by the late Pulitzer Prize winner, William Styron.

In 1985 when he was 60, Styron was debilitated by depression. One night after he realised his thoughts of suicide were about to become reality he got his doctor to hospitalise him, and only then did his recovery begin.

This slim book began as a lecture about the author's "descent into madness", developed into an essay for Vanity Fair magazine, then expanded into the best explanation of mental anguish I've ever encountered.

How enlightening it must have been for fellow depression sufferers to have someone as articulate as Styron to speak for them. He wrote an op ed piece for the New York Times, for example, when writer Primo Levi, who had survived Auschwitz, nonetheless took his own life after suffering terrible depression. Styron was furious that Levi was seen as weak for killing himself, and he wrote: "The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain."

Styron acknowledged most people survive depression, but he wisely pointed out that to those who are "compelled to destroy themselves there should be no more reproof attached than to the victims of terminal cancer".

Unfortunately in New Zealand, the John Kirwan campaign notwithstanding, we have little awareness of mental illness. We lump all forms of sickness of the mind together and dump them in a corner labelled "minimum funding", then shroud it all in a blanket called "privacy act" until a coroner like Ian Smith, or a parent, cries out for someone, somewhere, to do something.