Safe, confident and engaged rangatahi (youth)
Our voyage owes much to the strength and foresight of youth
The Waka Hourua initiatives identified Rangatahi 15- 25 year old’s as a priority population because of their increasing presence in the suicide statistics, particularly being reported higher when compared to Māori above 30 years old (Ministry of Justice, 2017). Waka Hourua explored four opportunities for engagement.
First, some initiatives focused on building resilience among secondary school students. Seminars enabled small breakout groups to discuss positive career planning, relationships at home and school, managing social media, and recognising distress in self and others. The clear focus was on building strengths for today and tomorrow. Other seminars heard from peers about how difficulties had been overcome and what had helped to regain confidence and develop the will to carry on. Innovative educational and activity based programmes were promoted through the following initiatives;
Live more Awesome, Innov8 Group Limited, Mahia Toa Rangatahi, Ngā Waka o Te Tai Tokerau, Otara Boards Forum Incorporated, Piritahi Hau Ora, Taikura Trust, Te Manu Toroa, Te Awanui Hauora Trust, Te Rūnanga o Kirikiriroa and Tai Timu Trust.
In the second approach, rangatahi were encouraged to develop their own programmes and to make use of their own networks and sources of information. Among other strategies, giving, seeking, and receiving help when it was needed was viewed crucial to fostering rangatahi wellbeing. This approach was advocated by Awareness of Suicide in Kaipara, He Konae, Innov8 Group Limited, Tau Iho I Te Pō, Tiwhanawhana Trust in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation and Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika. Essentially rangatahi-led approaches recognise the potential of rangatahi to relate more readily to their peers and to reduce risks within school environments.
A third avenue took a more instructive approach by alerting groups to the impacts of lifestyles associated with suicide and then providing them with strategies for avoiding those situations. There was also discussion on the services that could be helpful to anyone who might be unhappy to the point of considering suicide. Alcohol and drug misuse, broken relationships, violence in home environments, perceived loss of dignity or self-esteem were among the more common risks addressed. Learning in an alcohol and drug-free environment was also viewed seminal for addressing wellness as advocated by Mika Haka Foundation, Ngā Waka o Te Tai Tokerau, Te Rūnanga o Kirikiriroa and Tai Timu Trust.
A fourth avenue drew on the expertise of rangatahi in digital technologies. Communication, both positive and negative has become increasingly dependent on social media, text messaging, tweeting, and 24 hour mobile telephone exchanges. Digital interaction has become the major form of connectedness for many rangatahi. While the uncensored, impulsive, and hurtful language has presented serious problems for some on the receiving end, there have also been attempts to promote a more ethical approach to digital communication and a reduced dependency on that mode.
Rangatahi leaders themselves have also made greater use of social media, text messaging and mobile linkages to foster greater responsibility for users, and to provide advice for those who might be distressed to the point of contemplating suicide. Rangatahi initiatives include Otara Boards Forum Incorporated, Innov8 Group Limited and Piritahi Hauora
Common to all four approaches has been a strong sense of responsibility for the prevention of suicide. The initiatives undertaken by rangatahi leaders, and the sense of obligation to peers, have been beneficial. Often, they demonstrated a capacity to relate and help in ways that parents, teachers, or community agencies would have found difficult.