New Zealand’s perplexing mental health statistics have inspired Kau Tulī Northern representative Leorida Peters to take action, educate and raise awareness about the growing area of concern.
When Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall released the provisional suicide statistics in 2020 for New Zealand, it showed an increase in numbers particularly those in the 15 to 19-year age group, where numbers have risen from 53-73 in the same period.
“Young people are being highlighted as having the highest rates of mental illness and majority of this group are Maori and Pacific, and this inspired the upcoming MAPS Day,” Event Lead Leorida explains.
Staged at Fale o Samoa in South Auckland on March 30, the Mental health And Pacific Students or MAPS Day, is an acknowledgement of the statistics, and an effort to help what seems to be New Zealand’s most at-risk people, she adds.
Leorida says the target audience for the MAPS Day is Year 12 and 13 high school students, as they are getting ready to enter “the real world” and all the challenges the transition brings.
The concept behind MAPS Day is to deliver a programme to educate and engage Pacific students with mental health information as well as strategies and services to support mental health challenges.
Young people will be exposed to full day of workshops, guest speakers and a careers expo so youth attending can have interactive learnings from each session.
“Our aim is to raise awareness of mental health among Pacific youth and equip them with ways to navigate their own wellbeing on a daily basis,” Leorida says.
“Since the age of people experiencing mental illnesses in the Pacific community is getting younger, I wanted to create a safe space for students to talanoa and initiate conversations.
“We need to hear and assist our youth now more than ever.”
For a long time, Leorida has wanted to plan an event such as MAPS Day because of its relevance, and value to Pacific young people.
“When I was in high school, I was always participating in careers expos, university open days, as well as academic and cultural events.
“However, there was hardly any promotion of mental health and what it meant.
“Had there been a MAPS Day for me and my friends in high school it could have changed a lot about the way we viewed and dealt with mental health in our formative years.”
Mental health needs to be a priority just like any other major event or subject especially for our Pacific students who are more susceptible to mental health adversities, she says.
Her role as a member of Kau Tulī, which is a youth advisory group to the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, has been key to planning MAPS Day.
The Ministry has been able to mobilise Leorida’s idea with funding, mentoring and community connections to make get MAPS Day off the ground.
Leorida hopes to facilitate more MAPS Days throughout the school year however, this would be subject to COVID-19 and funding, she says.
If there are any mental health services or individuals interested in taking part in MAPS Days, email [email protected].
You can follow the MAPS Day from 9am on March 30, on Instagram @mafaufauproject and @pacificaotearoa.