Fear of bullying causing “extreme anxiety”

Marguerite McGuckin -

Bullying and online bullying is rife in schools and the community, according to a suicide prevention initiative in Whanganui, Rangitīkei and Ruapehu.

The new strategic approach to preventing suicide and suicidal behaviour, such as self-harm, was released this week by Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitīkei and Ruapehu.

It says youth suicide and serious self-harm are increasing and suicide rates among Māori continue to be disproportionately high.

An earlier Insights Report highlighted issues affecting young people.

It says online bullying and being judged negatively is common, can escalate quickly and “go viral” to spread even more widely.

The report describes how the speed and scale of this "negative culture" affects tamariki and rangatahi, causing fear of being judged and ridiculed, which can lead to extreme anxiety.

Marguerite McGuckin, Lead Systems Innovator for the new initiative, says young people are looking for positive role models, experiences and environments where they feel loved, valued and free from judgement, and believe this will help them grow resilience and become confident, well young adults.

She says rangatahi must be part of developing solutions.

“There’s nothing about rangatahi without rangatahi," McGuckin says.

"We’ve always got to have our rangatahi at the table and have their voice to ensure that what we’re doing going forward is what they’re saying, not what we think they’re saying. Including them in all the kōrero about what we’re doing - and if we’re talking about rangatahi it’s not about them, it’s with them.”

Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitīkei Ruapehu is managed through Whanganui Māori health provider Te Oranganui. CEO Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata says talking to rangatahi about their wellbeing is key to developing the new suicide prevention strategy.

“Often suicide is a very, very difficult conversation to have, but we went out to our communities and we gathered their voices,” Walsh-Tapiata says.

“Having those meaningful conversations with rangatahi is really one of the key pieces of work that occurred in this space.

“The ability to create forums where young people can have conversations that aren’t on their phone and aren’t all impacted by Facebook … wherever they can find that safe space, we need to encourage that.”

People who are struggling and need someone to talk to, can call the below helplines:

National helplines

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

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