– Nigel Latta July 2018.
We teach kids all kinds of stuff. We teach them things like using their manners, how to brush their teeth, how to cross the road safely, and how to read and write. When they get older we teach them about sex and sexuality, and driving cars, and financial literacy, and trigonometry, and a million other things as well.
Isn’t it time we taught every child in this country, in every part of this country, how to deal with stress and anxiety? How to manage their feelings and emotions? Isn’t it time we taught them fundamentally important, and highly effective skills, for living a less stressful, happier life?
If your heart is weary from the constant onslaught of terrible statistics when it comes to our young people’s mental health—and god knows mine is—there’s finally something you personally can do to help them.
There’s no doubt we have a crisis in youth mental health in this country. That’s not a word I personally use lightly, because it’s a word we all hear a lot.
Everything’s a bloody crisis these days it seems, but when it comes to our young people, it’s actually true: We are 34th out of 41 countries for overall childhood wellbeing. Antidepressant medication being prescribed for under 13 year olds has increased 79.4% since 2006, and 101.9% for teens aged 14-18.
I could go on, there are far more terrifying statistics, but we all know them, and they just make you feel sad, and tired, and hopeless.
There are so many young people around our country who are struggling with anxiety and depression it’s almost beyond belief. We all know them. They’re in our families, and in our friends families. We have all have been touched in some way by these issues.
Something we hear a lot is that the solution is complicated.
Well, I call bullshit on that. The solution is simple, we know what it is, we know how to implement it, and whenever we have… it works.
Over the last several decades the evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness based training for young people (and adults) has continued to grow. Studies all over the world show that mindfulness training is effective.
It helps children and young people develop increased calm and resilience, increased focus and attention, enhanced self-awareness and conflict-resolution skills, increased kindness, empathy, connection and pro-social behaviour, and statistically significant increases in emotional and general wellbeing.
What’s more kids like it, they enjoy the training, and they can identify and talk about all kinds of benefits in their lives.
In New Zealand there are two programmes which have shown all these benefits for children and young people: the ‘Pause, Breathe, Smile’ Programme, and ‘ATAWHAI’. Pause, Breathe, Smile is supported by the Mental Health Foundation, and aligns with the New Zealand Education Curriculum (making it easier for schools to implement it). ATAWHAI is bringing transformational change to young people most in need. Both are being translated into Te Reo Māori with a focus on applications and research partnerships with iwi and within Kura Kaupapa Māori settings.
The ‘Fund Mental Skills Training for All Children and Young People’ submission will go to the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction to recommend funding the ‘Pause Breathe Smile’ and ‘ATAWHAI’ Programme in every school in New Zealand.
If we did that, we would change our country forever. The benefits of having programmes like this in every school would be profound. I have seen kids using the Pause Breathe Smile Programme first hand, and it was amazing. It gave me hope that maybe we really could do something to turn the tide.
So I’m personally asking you now, here, in this moment, to sign now, and be part of changing New Zealand forever. If we do this, if we can get enough people to add their voices to this position, and make enough noise so that the people who can fund the programmes will actually listen, then we will have done something historic.
Sign in support. Forward this to everyone you know. Our young people need us. It’s time we stopped talking about doing something and just bloody got on with doing the things we know will actually make a huge difference.
Join me, and all the other New Zealanders who want to make a real and lasting difference for children and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand.