Adolescent mental health is sadly becoming an everyday subject.
When working with children and youth, you can sometimes see the cracks forming in a usually happy teenager. The stress, anxiety and weight of what we, as adults, would sometimes consider trivial issues weighs heavily on their minds.
When this teenage angst is combined with real-life problems and stress, our most precious students can lose their way.
The recent article about Rotorua's new Patua Te Taniwha Charitable Trust (see below) shows just how important it is that our teenagers and communities feel supported.
Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti arahia o tatau mahi – Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work.
• Rotorua community comes together for awareness and support at Hīkoi 4 Life
• Rotorua urged to 'fight the monster' after 15 suspected suicides in 15 months
• Hundreds march to Parliament for teen suicide awareness
• Kyle MacDonald: The uncomfortable truth about New Zealanders and suicide
Social media and technology provide so many positives in our daily lives. But without the ability to self-monitor time spent watching the lives of others, or cope with the trauma of online bullying, combined with the constant want or need to fit in with perceived "cooler" people, our teenagers feel pressure like never before.
Pressure to fit in. Pressure to show up. Pressure to wear the right clothes, say the right things, and gain that "like" or instant gratification from an honest opinion post. Our teenagers switch between fuelling each other's egos online by pressing "like" and building each other up with publically witnessed comments and then shattering fragile teenage confidence by tearing each other down in the next instance.
We hear terms such as keyboard warriors, people who valiantly shout through their typing their positive and negative thoughts, comments or opinions, and disappear into hiding when they choose to.
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There is not as much sit-down, face-to-face communication. This can lead to a loss of, or imagined, tone which can charge up an argument. When one combines tone with reacting under pressure and stress, teenagers feel attacked, explosive and vulnerable instead of calmly reading a situation and answering when they are calm and supported.
Screen time can affect our minds indiscriminately; young children often spin out, get stressed, or lash out angrily as their cortisol starts to rise.
A lot of us are completely unaware of the impact of suicide until we are affected.
The biggest take away from this article is that suicide affects the people left behind. They need counselling. They are left with questions. Family and friends struggle to make sense of the tragedy.
Our Government is addressing mental health in the new Wellbeing Budget, which is a start. But how can we educate ourselves and our communities so that there is no stigma around mental health, no shame in reaching out?
Given the combination of teenage struggles, real-life problems and less-than-ideal home environments, it's no wonder youth mental health problems are increasing.
How do we as parents, teachers, whānau, friends, schools and communities work together to alleviate the issues before they become unmanageable?
Coroner Wallace Bain touched on "social factors" such as poverty, family, violence and mental health and how these all contribute to suicide.
How does a young person get to that point of being so lost, feeling so helpless and so alone that they feel suicide is their only way out?
Richard Fullard, from Osbornes Funeral Directors, said it clearly: "Young people need to know they are loved."
They need to feel loved and feel that, no matter what, they have someone they can talk to. Relationships are key to our young people opening up, feeling valued, safe enough to share, and to not feel alone.
Young people need to know they are loved
Teachers, counsellors, sports coaches, youth group leaders, community leaders, family and friends must continue to build positive relationships with their young people.
Teachers are often the closest to teenagers and can receive surprise disclosures of information.
Simple yet important talking, listening and communicating are critical. Setting up rules and goals for self, family, schools and community can also help everyone to be on the same page.
Education about social media needs to be continual (not just a once off talk), and adults need to be available to help handle bullying and hurtful situations online.
Is Patua Te Taniwha the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff? I think not. This is a group of brave and forward-thinking members who have been hurt by suicide at some point in their lives.
They have had enough of our country burying its head in the sand. They want to see positive change and the right support networks to help get us there.
How can we all help to support the trust's goals?
By building positive and supportive relationship networks, like the trust aims to do, we can encourage others to talk about any suicidal feelings they may be experiencing, by continually asking our friends and whānau: "are you okay?"
We can continually check up on our friends and youth in person – not just online where people can easily hide behind words like "I'm fine" or "I'm just tired".
The kaupapa behind the trust's mahi is clear and relevant. If our community can stand up and support whānau who have been affected by suicide then perhaps we can stand together to help prevent this happening again in the future.
Patua Te Taniwha aims to raise suicide awareness by creating community events to break the silence and stop the stigma that for many years has accompanied the way we view suicide in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Mental health awareness needs to start at home, by breaking down stereotypes, barriers and the old Kiwi stigma of "she'll be right mate".
We need to build our youth up. Let us stand up and say we are here, by the side of every young person we are in contact with. This involvement in the lives of our youth is vital.
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:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE : 0800 376 633 ,free text 234 or email email@example.com or online chat.
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE : 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP : 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
• SAMARITANS – 0800 726 666.
• Jane Trask is doing work experience with the Rotorua Daily Post.