Photography by Imogen Wilson

young new zealanders get candid about mental health

With New Zealand in the middle of a mental health crisis, we spoke to young Kiwis about their experiences.

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Nov 1 2018, 1:16pm

Photography by Imogen Wilson

Earlier this year the New Zealand government launched a ministerial inquiry into the country's mental health crisis. The inquiry aims to investigate issues that New Zealanders have known all too well, for far too long: a lack of mental health resources is taking its toll on local communities. Young people in particular, are feeling the strain of the country's lack of mental health resources. As it stands, New Zealand's youth suicide rate is one of the highest in the developed world. While the government works to finish their inquiry, due to be handed down next month, young New Zealanders wait months to access mental health support.

With a link established between creativity and mental health issues, i-D spoke to some talented young Kiwis to get a sense of how they're feeling about the state of youth mental health in New Zealand.

new-zealand-youth-mental-health-robert

Robert, 19, artist

Do you think there's a youth mental health problem in New Zealand?
There is definitely a problem. Our culture has a "toughen up" mentality, which makes it hard for people to open up and be vulnerable — especially men. We are a country that loves to follow tradition and some of those traditions are unhealthy and outdated. We also have a high rate of bullying in our schools which adds to all this.

Do young people in New Zealand feel comfortable talking about their mental health?
Absolutely not. I have to remember sometimes that not everyone is as open as I am or as open as my friends. I speak about my struggles really openly and publicly because I want to break down any stigmas whether they have to do with sexual health, assault, or mental health.

Are there many mental health services or spaces available to young people?
There are but there can always be more. There needs to be a better system when it comes to checking up on the people that are most at risk. Posting on your Instagram story telling people to "message you" when they are upset can only do so much. We have to reach out and check up on the people we know are going through a rough time.

Do you and your friends talk to about your mental health with each other?
Every day.

What are some small ways you look after your own mental health on a day-to-day level?
I like to go for runs. I sleep whenever I can because my physical health can contribute to my mental health. I like to just be present with my friends.

@rob.tennent

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Ria, 22, fashion student

Do you think there's a youth mental health problem in New Zealand?
Yeah, definitely. This digital age that we're all living in now has made it pretty easy for us to compare our lives to people on Instagram and feel shitty about the fact that we’re not constantly socializing, traveling, or buying new clothes. We're comparing ourselves to people who post one percent of their "perfect" lives online.

Are there many mental health services or spaces available for young people to access?
I know there are numbers you can call and universities have access to free counseling but I've heard these can be very hit and miss. It can be difficult to find a counsellor that you genuinely connect to and feel comfortable with.

What do you think could be done to help encourage conversation surrounding mental health?
I'm lucky that I have a family who has encouraged us to speak openly about how we're feeling. Mum taught me from a young age that letting it out is better than keeping it in. I think it's just important to openly talk about it and to notice that people deal with things differently.

What are some small ways you look after your own mental health on a day-to-day level?
I like writing everything down, I feel as though that always helps me. Or doing anything creative or productive. I find cooking super therapeutic too.

@riabhogal

new-zealand-young-mental-health-manon

Manon, 22, filmmaker

Do young people in New Zealand feel comfortable talking about their mental health?
I think mental health has become more of an open conversation among young people recently. However, it depends on the individual and the people around them.

What do you think could be done to help encourage conversation surrounding mental health?Schools should talk about mental health openly and educate their students from a young age. It becomes harder to normalize things if you have been conditioned to think a certain way. Like drug use and consent, mental health is something I felt wasn't discussed properly in school. Educate with empathy!

Do you and your friends talk to about your mental health with each other?
Yes, I'm one of the lucky few to have supportive friends.

Why is it important to talk openly about mental health?
So people don't feel alone and helpless. Getting help can be difficult and knowing the people around you support you can really help.

@manonsoshwifty

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Jack, 22, artist, tattooist, musician

Do you think there's a youth mental health problem in New Zealand?
Unfortunately yes, even statistics reflect that. Generally, and most prevalent to me (being privileged, middle class, white, assigned male at birth, with easy access to formal education), are societal attitudes of stoicism. It's the constant "harden up" narrative in whatever form it takes.

Do young people in New Zealand feel comfortable talking about their mental health?
I definitely don't speak for all young people (or any group of people), but fortunately I exist in an echo chamber of relatively similar ideology. Lots of people are very comfortable talking about this, but lots of people are fixed on distracting themselves. The more of us engage in this kind of discourse the better.

What do you think could be done to help encourage conversation surrounding mental health?
The conversation needs to be ongoing, loud and inclusive.

What are some small ways you look after your own mental health on a day-to-day level?
I indulge the creativity and productivity itch, or accept that I've either done enough today or that I have no obligation to create something every day with a tangible 'product.' Leaving your usual pattern helps; going for a walk through nature helps.

@fucksunjack

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Nao, 24, photographer

Do young people in New Zealand feel comfortable talking about their mental health?
I haven't lived here for long enough to know a lot about this. But from my 10 months in New Zealand I feel like most people are withholding their emotions.

What do you think could be done to help encourage conversation surrounding mental health?
Try to open up your mind to others even on small things. Share time with others by having a chat. Hopefully people will then realize that it’s not only them, but everyone has problems of their own.

Do you and your friends talk to about your mental health with each other?
Sometimes we do but other times we don’t. So when I notice that my friends have problems of their own I would gradually worm the problem out of them and ask if there is anything I can help with. Or just let them know again how much I care about and love them. Or even just take them out to hang.

What are some small ways you look after your own mental health on a day-to-day level?
Meditation and yoga, doing sports, just moving my body and getting out of the house. Get some sun and wander around. Eat well.

@oca.nao

If you or someone you know needs to talk you can contact the following in New Zealand:
Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Depression.org.nz

And the following in Australia:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Headspace on 1800 650 890
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Credits


Photography Imogen Wilson

This article originally appeared on i-D AU.