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Novel method of promoting youth wellbeing


20 May 2014

Novel method of promoting youth wellbeing

A graphic novel developed by Victoria University of Wellington researchers aims to promote how young New Zealanders struggling with depression and other mental illness can seek help.

A Choice is the first of several resources in the making as part of the Youth Wellbeing Study, a research project led by Dr Marc Wilson, head of Victoria’s School of Psychology, which focuses on non-suicidal self-injury.

The research team partnered with Onslow College in Wellington to develop the narrative, with students contributing to weekly story-boarding sessions. Imagery was provided by Ant Sang, award-winning illustrator of the popular television series bro’Town.

Matthew Kan, an Onslow College student, says it was an inspiring experience. “The final copy of the comic book turned out amazing, and the process motivated me to understand depression and how to get help.”

Dr Jessica Garisch, Research Fellow and coordinator of the Youth Wellbeing Project, says “although there are numerous resources internationally, there are few resources developed specifically for young New Zealanders based on information collected from this population themselves”.

Research shows that up to half of New Zealand’s young people will engage in some form of self-injury by the time they leave school. “Hence this is a crucial area to develop further understanding and resources to assist teens, schools, whānau and the community,” says Dr Garisch.

An important part of the Youth Wellbeing Study, which runs until 2016, is developing useful resources for adolescents, their whānau, and school staff about how to best support young people who self-injure.

The study also includes a longitudinal survey with secondary school students from 15 regional schools and interviews and focus groups with school counsellors, social workers and youth.

Emma-Jayne Brown, a psychology PhD student who facilitated the development of A Choice, says “we're really proud of the graphic novel and hope it can aid in the discourse around such important issues”.

A Choice can be downloaded here:

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