Tuesday, May 17, 2022

‘Think About The World That Our Young People Have Inherited’ The New Social Media Campaign Aiming To Help Our Rangatahi

#ARO is a collaboration between several different groups, including #ProtectOurWhakapapa, Feels Like Home Bro and the Yeah.Nah.Cuz Collective, all aiming to provide accessible and powerful mental health tools to young people who need them. Capsule talks to #ARO project lead Stevie Davis-Tana about helping our rangatahi better understand their mental health in a world full of so much pressure.

When it comes to getting good mental health messaging or services out there, there are two tools that can proof invaluable: access and reach. Aotearoa’s statistics for depression and suicide are some of the worst in the OECD and a new social media campaign is aiming to help inform and support rangatahi who are struggling with mental distress. For Stevie Davis-Tana (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa), #ARO Project Lead and spoken-word poet, it was a no brainer to get involved when the idea came up earlier this year.

“Every year the statistics come out around how New Zealand has such terrible rates of depression and suicide, especially amongst young people and especially amongst rangatahi Māori,” says Stevie. “For us, we wanted to look at what we could do to help. So we’ve got tips on how to practise self-care, how to talk to your friends about mental health, how to reach out for help or show other people talking about their mental health and how they handle challenges.”

“Every year the statistics come out around how New Zealand has such terrible rates of depression and suicide, especially amongst young people and especially amongst rangatahi Māori. We wanted to look at what we could do to help.”

#ARO is a collaboration between several different groups, including #ProtectOurWhakapapa, Mauri Media and the Yeah.Nah.Cuz Collective, all aiming to provide accessible and powerful mental health tools to young people who need them. It’s an eight-week social media campaign, which runs across each of those platforms, started early on in September (yes, perfect timing in yet another lockdown). The aim? To help rangatahi understand their emotions, cope better with stress and know that it’s okay to be struggling. 

Providing practical tips that were preventative – and not just ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ advice – were key, as was framing that advice in a way that was helpful rather than intimidating. “One of the things that I have found – and that I’ve heard from other whānau – is that there’s quite a bit of information out there but a lot of it is also really heavy, medical jargon,” Stevie says. “And that can be hard for whānau when they’re looking for good quality information, especially if they’re really struggling, to have to make sense of that jargon. So that’s another part of #ARO, we’re trying to break down those language barriers.”

And when it comes to rangatahi experiencing mental distress, it’s not just that direct age group that need assistance – their parents or grandparents can also need help in how to have those tricky conversations, especially for family members who grew up in a time where mental health wasn’t discussed. “There’s a huge difference between the generations and there is often a feeling of shame, particularly in those older generations,” Stevie says. “They don’t know how to have those conversations. And with the young people, there’s always a feeling of shame when it comes to talking to your parents; talking to your parents about sex or whatever, there’s always that sense of ‘This feels a bit shame.’ So that’s another part of this for us, trying to also break down those shame barriers.”

“It’s not only being isolated from your friends or communities but it’s also the pressure of ‘life still has to go on’; you still have to do schoolwork, you still have to get all your assessments done, you have to do all of it while we’re going through a pandemic and while you’re at home and can’t see your friends.”

The project being a collaboration between places like and hugely popular social media/podcasting platforms like the Yeah.Nah.Cuz Collective was also key in getting the information out there. “We’re trying to reach as many people as we can,” Stevie says. “I started volunteering in the youth development sector when I was 14, so I’ve always felt quite confident to be able to access information and I feel like I’ve grown up with friends around me who are similar to that. But I look at other people in our communities where their whānau come from completely different situations, where people don’t know where to get help, people don’t know what to do or how to access help. So I don’t want put these messages out just for people who are already in the know; I want these messages to try and reach whānau who don’t know.”

Social media is also where a lot of rangatahi spend their time, so it’s crucial to get the message to where they already are. It’s impossible to underestimate just how much the pandemic and its restrictions have affected young people who were already under so much pressure, Stevie says. “It’s not only being isolated from your friends or communities but it’s also the pressure of ‘life still has to go on’; you still have to do schoolwork, you still have to get all your assessments done, you have to do all of it while we’re going through a pandemic and while you’re at home and can’t see your friends.”

“That side of your social wellbeing can only be met with the people in your house and fingers crossed you have a good relationship with the people you live with, that’s not even accounting for those who might be in unsafe or non-ideal whānau situations.”

If you remember your last years at school, there was so much pressure put on every test you took, every choice you made, as though they were direct paths to a good or bad future. And that was before recent world events. “Think about the world that our young people have inherited – they were born into climate change and there are all of these global crises happening. Our young people are inheriting a world where it’s hard for them to believe that there is hope going forward, plus there’s still all of this crazy pressure on them to perform. How hard is it to be told that every test you take is crucial while you’re sitting at home during a pandemic?” Steve says.

“What I really wish I could say to them is that not every test score matters… I want the world and I want our communities to help support our young people to know that there are other things out there and your health, overall, is more important than that test score.”

For more information on the #ARO campaign, visit here. The #ARO campaign features content that can be triggering for some whānau. If you or someone you know is in need of help or support, you can call the following helplines that are operating 24/7:    

Youthline –  0800 376 633 

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or free text 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865

Healthline – 0800 611 116

National Helpline – 1737

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