Prioritising youth voices necessary to improve wellbeing

The mental health and wellbeing of rangatahi Māori and young people is one of the most important issues we can focus on today. We only need to acknowledge increasing levels of distress, and the many well-known barriers to wellbeing, to understand that much more needs to be done to support young peoples’ mental health and wellbeing. This is according to today’s Te Hiringa Mahara - Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission report Young people speak out about Wellbeing: An insights report into the Wellbeing of Rangatahi Māori and other Young People in Aotearoa .

Rangatahi Māori and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand feel they are facing an uncertain future with inherited social, economic, and environmental challenges. “Young people are the future generation, leaders, and valuable members of our communities. They are also navigating unique challenges to previous generations, from climate change to an increasingly online world. There is evidence of mounting levels of distress and declining youth mental health and wellbeing,” says Te Hiringa Mahara Chief Executive Karen Orsborn.

“Young people have solutions and are experts in their own right. What we need is to collectively and urgently ensure that there are real opportunities for young people to be involved in decisions that impact them. This is the heart of our call to action - Rangatahi Māori and young people must have a seat at every decision-making table where they can shape their own futures and their voices and perspectives are heard.”

Four common themes of barriers to wellbeing have been identified by young people between 2018 and 2022 - namely uncertain futures; racism and discrimination; social media and online harms; and whānau wellbeing and intergenerational connections.

Young people want to see serious and measurable action on climate change; acceptance and celebration of diversity; the online world to be safe and supportive; and connection between whānau, culture and communities to be supported and fostered.

“System leaders, agencies, and other organisations in Aotearoa must work together with young people and make long-term systemic changes to address the barriers to wellbeing. Transforming young peoples’ wellbeing can only be realised when young peoples’ participation is prioritised in all decisions involving them.”

Read the report