It is Mental Health Awareness Week. In saying that, with young people being at the core focus of mental health issues, we must normalise talking about and sharing mental health issues regularly and not just when a crisis arises.
Young people say awareness only peaks when a crisis occurs, conversation starts happening and the whole community is affected by these tragedies. Friends support each other through these times alongside whanau but not all young people have the right support around them and, unfortunately, it's still common to hear youth find it hard to seek help at times.
Normalising conversations about mental wellbeing is a crucial and important way to open doors for young people to start seeking support as it is not always easy being or doing something you don't see often, so we need to start.
For a long time now mental health issues like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and many others have been swept under the rug. It's never been a normal thing to talk about so it can be difficult but in doing so really beneficial to supporting healthier youth.
I know for myself, seeing counsellors on and off when I've needed guidance has been an immense help and provided me a space to just vent and pick up tools to help get through the next waves because life is like a rollercoaster and it's better to learn how to deal with sticky situations than avoid them.
It is really sad to say I wasn't surprised by the findings from the Ministry of Health suicide rates report and other documents that
described the struggle for youth and particularly Māori and Pasifika, a majority that is already overly represented in statistics.
"Māori have higher suicide rates than other ethnic groups. Youth (15–24 years) have higher suicide rates than other life-stage age groups. Suicide rates among Māori and Pacific peoples decrease with age whereas suicide rates among European and other people do not. Māori youth have higher suicide rates than youth from other ethnic groups," the
Youth suicide has had a major effect on Whangārei. We have seen Northland suicide rates increasing, and youth are losing whanau, friends and peers to suicide too often in this town.
The ripple effect on young people can cause them to be vulnerable, upset and sometimes unpredictable. Young people need us now more than ever, to support them and provide guidance, not stigmatise and put into a statistic.
It's important to understand that by acknowledging the situation, especially if trauma occurs or a young person seeks help, further support is required as part of the process to build resilience within these young people by listening, being supportive and respectful of their views and beliefs, whether or not these are different from yours.
Initiatives across Aotearoa are being led by young people, which is amazing, working together and alongside each other to implement ideas on supporting their peers through hardships.
Even youth in Whangārei over the years have been banding together within schools, groups and leadership programmes to support initiatives behind mental health awareness.
"He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people."
Let's work together to take care of our young people, the leaders of today.
• Anahera Pickering is community outreach co-ordinator at Whangārei Youth Space. She can be contacted at Anahera@youthspace.co.nz .
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.
Or visit: Mental health helplines.