REPORT: I Feel Really Good When…strengthening youth mental health and wellbeing in Murihiku Southland

A research report released today channels the voices of over 140 students throughout Murihiku Southland on what it will take for youth mental health and wellbeing to thrive.

Recording from the report’s launch.

Four main themes emerging from the voices of Southland’s young people include needing a larger diversity of people in leadership roles, needing safe spaces, more exposure to new ideas and opportunities, and to be heard and empowered in their communities.

The report, titled ‘I Feel Really Good When…strengthening youth mental health and wellbeing in Murihiku Southland’, was facilitated by Massey University’s Toi Āria: Design for Public Good, and commissioned by Te Rourou, Vodafone Aotearoa Foundation (soon to be One Aotearoa Foundation), in partnership with Invercargill Licensing Trust Foundation and Community Trust South.

In 2022, researchers visited 10 schools throughout Southland to discuss with groups of students the factors which affect their wellbeing, and their needs and preferences when it comes to mental health and wellbeing support. The students’ ages ranged from 8 to 18 years old.

Te Rourou developmental evaluator Sharon Reece says the report is a way of amplifying the voices of rangatahi, and encouraging the wider community to let young people lead the way.

“The rangatahi we work with have proven that they are extremely capable at determining what they need to thrive. We know that our young people can identify and articulate the struggles they face, and they are invested in creating positive futures. Now it’s time to listen to them, learn from them, and to be reactive in our decision making,” she says.

The report is intended to better inform funding decisions for its funding partners, and based on the results, its potential to influence has expanded to the wider community, with the prospect of it helping to inform decision making for schools and policymakers. While the report identifies Southland-specific factors, it also captures a wider collective youth voice which the partners are hopeful will have a national reach.

“As the insights came together, we could all see the possibilities to replicate this throughout the country, with the potential to develop community-led responses, based on community need,” Ms Reece says.

Along with four key themes, the report presents recommendations as to how the needs of rangatahi can be met. These include subsiding transport provisions for better access to counselling, implementing new spaces and places, and to support youth-led initiatives in the community.

“Te Rourou is actively committed to rangatahi voices being central to our decision making, we can only reiterate how important that is, and this report will support us in that journey,” Ms Reece ends.