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Youth involvement critical to improving youth mental health

Young kiwi’s involvement critical to improving youth mental health

A sold-out event on Monday will showcase the latest thinking in solving New Zealand’s youth suicide problem - by hearing from young people themselves.

The Co-Design for Youth Wellbeing Symposium will feature young people, policy-makers and community leaders who have been connected by Lifehack and Ara Taiohi.

Lifehack is an organisation focused on promoting and supporting collaborative, youth focused initiatives that support young people’s wellbeing.

Lifehack have collaborated with Ara Taiohi, the peak body for youth development in Aotearoa, to develop the programme and champion rights based and strengths based approaches to working with young people.

The youth wellbeing symposium happens against a challenging national backdrop. New Zealand has the worst youth suicide rate in the developed world, according to a recent UNICEF report.

About 130 teens die by suicide here each year.

“The reasons for these horrifying statistics are complex, but Lifehack’s work over the last four years has produced a really strong evidence-base for involving young people in the solutions,” says Lifehack spokesperson Penny Hagen.

According to Hagen, the event at Massey University in Wellington will highlight the effectiveness of involving young people in decision-making, a process called co-design.

“The challenges that young people face need to be responded to at the community, organisational, and system level - so our approach has been looking to involve young people in the process.”

A holistic approach to youth wellbeing contributed to reducing suicide rates, Hagen said.

“At every level, all along the spectrum, we believe there are opportunities for young people to be more involved in interventions.”

“That’s what we’re advocating for. Whether it is being involved in organisations and processes, or leading programmes and services, their input is critical. Our work has been about helping organisations acquire the skills for involving young people in design and decision making”

Hagen said attendees will hear from speakers who have used co-design methods to influence policy changes at all levels of the community - from central government and local council, to law enforcement, iwi, health authorities, other charities and schools.

It will include examples of young people’s involvement in initiatives to advocate for young people who are in state care, support refugees, promote diversity, reduce bullying and address other issues that impact youth mental health and wellbeing.

Anya Satyanand, spokesperson from Ara Taiohi, is excited about the central role that young people will play in the programme.

“The symposium will open with a challenge from students from Wellington High School, and includes performances by young people from Ormiston Junior College addressing issues of wellbeing important to them.”

According to Satyanand, building the programme with Lifehack has been hugely inspiring.

“Lifehack have brought huge heart, smarts and capacity to our sector, and our work to join up positive youth development to youth wellbeing has opened up new ways of thinking and connecting. We acknowledge the work they have done, and the huge positive impact they’ve had for young people’s wellbeing across Aotearoa.”

The Co-Design Symposium also features Handle the Jandal, a community organising campaign led by Maori and Polynesian youth and supported by Ko Awatea, aimed at building youth resilience to improve mental health and wellbeing; and VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, an innovative new organisation which works with young people in state care to amplify their voices and perspectives within and beyond Oranga Tamariki (The Ministry for Vulnerable Children).

The symposium is the last event for Lifehack, as it’s Ministry of Social Development funding has ended.

Final reporting on the success and learnings of the organisation is due in October.


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