Youth Parliament join the fight against suicide

By Tema Hemi

Eighty-four young New Zealanders between the ages of 10 and 19 died by suicide in the 2018 - 2019 period. Eleven of them were under the age of 15.  These damaging results has lead Tauranga's youth parliament member Moana Anaru Palmer to support the standardised mental health check-ups that's looks to lessen the number of youth suffering from depression. 

To empower our youth means to empower a nations generation to support one another as family.  

Palmer says, "The main thing I think is love. Don’t be afraid, it’s alright to speak up with one another, it’s good to love and support one another."

Among Māori males the suicide rate was 31.7 per 100,000, the highest rate in the ten year period from 2007. The rate in 2016 for Māori was twice that for non-Māori, for both males and females. 

Palmer also says, "We really want to find a pathway forward to be able to correct the wrongs of in particular youth suicide. Without a doubt a new day dawning upon us and it’s where we need to really strengthen and better support those people who may be considering suicide."

In 2017 Lucy McSweeney started a petition calling for better guidelines, adequate training and funding for mental health education in the New Zealand high school curriculum. Over ten thousand have signed the online petition.  

McSweeny says, "There is no point in teaching reading and writing if we're not raising young people with well-being. I think if we're not seeing the importance of resilience, and community, and support then we are not understanding and the education system is not understanding what young people need to thrive."

Members of the government’s health select committee say a program that builds mental resilience within youth should be at the core of the education curriculum. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says, "I think they already are. I think schools a very aware of this. I think mental health, mental well-being, resilience, good interpersonal skills these are all things schools are very focused on."

The Greens co-leader Marama Davidson says, "I support that we need to talk about how to support young people and including it at school seems like a really good place to start."

Palmer says in closing, "It’s good to embrace these strategies to define the bigger picture and that is to tackle all issues pertaining to suicide."

Palmer says he and the other members of the youth parliament health select committee are determined to see this issue through and hopes it will receive full support from the government.