Youth voice needed in mental health policy

by Dr Jessica Stubbing, Naomi Simon-Kumar and Sir Peter Gluckman
Group of multiracial teen college friends having fun outdoors. Happy people taking selfie.

Listening to what young people think about youth mental health is core to understanding why it’s such a big health challenge and how we can address it.

Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures was commissioned by Te Hiringa Mahara – Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission to explore what young people in Aotearoa New Zealand have said impacts their wellbeing.

Download the literature review

Research fellow Dr Jessica Stubbing, researcher Naomi Simon-Kumar and Koi Tū director Sir Peter Gluckman undertook a literature review focusing on what young New Zealanders have said about four specific areas – bleak futures, social media, racism and discrimination and intergenerational connectedness – and how they impact wellbeing.

The summarised literature, which included 105 publications and reports produced by government and support organisations, charities and researchers, contributed to the Te Hiringa Mahara publication Young people speak out about Wellbeing: An insights report into the Wellbeing of Rangatahi Māori and other Young People in Aotearoa being released today.

Koi Tū is also undertaking extensive consultation with young people and with experts to consider other factors beyond the four covered in the commissioned review.

In a Koi Tū commentary, Social factors affecting youth mental health and wellbeing, which supports the publication from Te Hiringa Mahara, the researchers explore what the literature review says and what it does not – particularly, concerning trends about how we are preparing (or failing to prepare) our young people to thrive in an increasingly complex world.

The authors say incorporating youth voice into mental health policy is an urgent priority. Koi Tū says the literature review focused on what young people believe is affecting their well-being at a systemic level as opposed to the personal difficulties they might be facing.

Therefore, Koi Tū is doing further research to look at what they call systemic determinants – the social influences of what’s going on in the broader lives of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand that contributes to their wellbeing.

If we want to see a New Zealand that thrives in the future, we need to be addressing this and prioritising the voice of our rangatahi.

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