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I feel really good when...

Our projects

I feel really good when...

In 2022 Toi Āria talked to rangatahi across Murihiku Southland about their ideas for improving better mental health outcomes for young people across the region. The project was commissioned by Te Rourou, One Aotearoa Foundation, the ILT Foundation and Community Trust South.

It followed on from an earlier piece of research also commissioned by Te Rourou — Thriving in Murihiku. A key finding of that research was that young people in Murihiku Southland were looking for more mental health and wellbeing support as a priority.

This report — ‘I feel really good when…’ — Strengthening youth mental health and wellbeing in Murihiku Southland is part of responding to that finding. It gathers the voices, experiences and opinions of rangatahi around what more and better mental health and wellbeing support in the region might look like.

kids helping kids

What we found 
We conducted a short piece of desktop research and held focus groups with a total of 141 young people in schools across the region. We heard about many of the issues and challenges they face when it comes to their mental health. These include depression and anxiety, expectations and pressure to succeed, acceptance and bullying, social media, vaping and addiction, grief and loss. They also highlighted some specific challenges for young people living in the Murihiku Southland area including transportation, the prevalence of conservative values and a small, highly connected population.

Our conversations with rangatahi elicited a huge range of suggestions and ideas for improving mental health and wellbeing support for young people. There are four areas for potential future focus:

  • Trust + Connection — a diversity of people who care
  • Spaces + Places — safe, enlivening environments
  • Agency + Empowerment — enabling rangatahi to take the lead
  • Exposure + Education — ideas, opportunities and ongoing inspiration 

Trust + Connection — a diversity of people who care
Young people are looking for more — more people to support them and more diversity in that support. They want to feel a sense of trust and understanding from the adults that surround them. They are looking for connection.

Support is required at both ends of the wellbeing spectrum. It can take a variety of forms — whānau groups, supportive teachers, other adults in the school, visiting mentors and role models — the main thing is people who take an interest. Shared life experience and genuine passion is important to young people. The work of counsellors is greatly appreciated, but a greater diversity of backgrounds and life experiences would be valued.

Spaces + Places — safe, enlivening environments
Spaces and places are critical to wellbeing. Young people want more places they can call their own — places to nourish themselves, pursue their interests and support each other.

Many young people expressed difficulty in finding places where they felt safe, welcome and able to be themselves. This included spaces to be still and quiet, and places where it’s OK to let anger and energy out. School environments can add to stress and discomfort to a young person’s life — well-imagined, well-resourced and well-cared for facilities have the potential to make a huge difference to collective wellbeing.

Agency + Empowerment — enabling rangatahi to take the lead
Being heard, seen and understood is a vital component of wellbeing. Young people have ideas on how to make things better, and want to be involved.  

Social connections and a sense of belonging are vital components of good mental health. Across the board, peer support is highly valued by young people. They want more time and support to do this well, and they want to learn from each other too. More opportunities for cultural connection are also important, especially for Māori/Pasifika and queer rangatahi, as well as newer Southland communities such as those of Colombian, Indian and Filipino heritage.

Exposure + Education — ideas, opportunities and ongoing inspiration 
Continual exposure to different people, perspectives, experiences and resources is valuable to young people. They want to see more, experience more, and be able to do more. It helps them feel hopeful.

In a relatively isolated region, the value of access to a wide range of people, activities and opportunities cannot be under-estimated. Whilst external speakers and programmes in schools are commonplace and largely appreciated, there is huge potential to develop such offerings. Rangatahi are hungry for experiences that educate, energise and inspire them.


Next steps
The young people we spoke to were full of care for the region they live in, and full of care for each other. They have ideas aplenty for improving youth mental health and wellbeing across the region — and want to be involved in creating the solutions. This report is intended to ensure their voices are heard by funding partners, schools and other key stakeholders in the community. Its ultimate purpose is to contribute to improvements in youth mental health and wellbeing in the region and across the motu.

The report was launched on 10 May 2023 at the Youth Sector Conference He Ringa Hāpai — an event aimed at building connection, capability and collaboration across the youth sector in Murihiku.