Warning: distressing content.
An Auckland teenager committed suicide after learning he had missed out on the requirements of a university course by two credits.
Mekellan Naidoo had completed his final year at Botany Downs Secondary School and planned to attend Auckland University in 2017 to study primary teaching, according to a Coroner's report released today.
His mother Shirley Naidoo told Coroner Katharine Greig that Mekellan had been in a car accident on January 15, 2017.
It was stressful for her son who she described as having "always been a sensitive child".
Two days later, the 17-year-old received his NCEA results.
"Mekellan did not tell his parents his results," Coroner Greig said.
"He sent a number of text messages to friends over the next two days that show that he was upset and grappling with the implications of his results and whether he would get into university and, if not, what his options were."
The young man contacted the university and his former teachers to find out what he could do.
Mekellan told his friends via text that he was "scared" and had never felt as bad in his life.
His friends were supportive and encouraged him to tell his parents.
"His texts show that he was concerned that if he could not make up credits he might have to do a foundation course that took a year and he was adamant in his texts that he was not going to go back to school," Coroner Greig said.
About 6pm the next day he messaged a friend with a photograph of the university, saying he had not been accepted.
The friend replied with a message of support.
Later, while Mekellan's parent were out of the house he committed suicide.
The realisation that he had not achieved the results he hoped for was "very distressing for Mekellan", Coroner Greig said.
"The process of sorting out his options was, understandably, not instant.
"In the meantime, he felt ashamed to tell his parents and it appears from his texts that he was feeling increasingly overwhelmed."
There was no evidence the 17-year-old spoke to "any trusted adult about his distress".
Communications with his teachers about how to make up credits were electronic, she said.
His teachers and friends had no hint that he was so distressed, she said. He seemed "his usual self at home".
"Mekellan's tragic and untimely death highlights that the period around receiving NCEA results can be a time of heightened vulnerability for students, especially if the results received are not as they wish.
"This is something that everyone involved needs to be aware of, and alert to."
It was important processes were in place to ensure that students had clear information on how to access promptly both emotional support and practical advice, she said.
Principal of Botany Downs Secondary College, Karen Brinsden, advised the Coroner that at the end of year assembly the school provides advice to students if external exams don't go according to plan, they may need additional support.
"She said that students are reminded that disappointing exam results are not final, that that they are part of a journey and that pathways always exist," according to the report.
Brinsden told the Coroner that following the release of the results by NZQA, the school
reception is typically open on the Monday following.
Recent graduates could come in to see either their whanau leaders, subject teacher
or the deputy principal seeking support about how to make up additional credits.
Brinsden further advised the Coroner that while the school always had an "open-door" policy for students to discuss their learning options, after reflection, the school had become more proactive in communicating with students about their options.
NZQA's chief executive Karen Poutasi told the Coroner when the 2019 results were released, NZQA would include more information for students about how to get help if the results upset or concerned them.
"The evidence is that both Mekellan's school and NZQA were aware of the need
to support young people practically and emotionally and had processes in place," Coroner Greig said.
"Tragically, although Mekellan was able to seek advice to sort out his options moving
forward, he did not feel able to indicate to anyone how he was feeling.
"Since Mekellan's tragic death, both Botany Downs Secondary College and NZQA have strengthened further the information provided to students."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
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• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202