TW: depression and anxiety
He aha te mea nui o te ao / What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata / It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
In the current digital age, we are more connected than ever. Contacting someone is only a text or call away. We have all the information that is available to us in the palm of our hands. But, if we are more connected than ever, why does our generation feel more alone and unheard than ever before?
Humans are social beings that feed off feeling like we belong to a community, to a family, to a group. We thrive when we feel connected to one another. Social media provides us a sense of belonging of some sort, and having hundreds of friends makes us feel good about ourselves. But, truthfully, many of our youth today feel lonelier than ever and can’t count on the people they are surrounded with.
For most of my time in high school, I had depression and anxiety. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, whether that was in school or home or within my community. I always felt like an outcast, never accepted in any group at school. I went into a bit of a reckless phase where I engaged in activities that were unhealthy and risky and developed friendships with people I knew I was better off without. I wasn’t aware of the help that was available to me, and I felt too proud to reach out for help. After completing high school, I finally decided to seek help. In the process, I realised the support services that are available for our youth today, and really wished that someone had told me about these in the past. I realised that I was very sheltered from the problems present in our society and too consumed in my own little bubble to realise that the issue of youth mental health is one that is wide-spread. Yet, there is not enough being done to address this.
According to the Ministry of Health’s statistics on Child and Youth Mental Health, one in five young Kiwis will be affected by depression by the age of 18, and almost one in five meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder by age 19. At first, I took this statistic lightly, because I didn’t think that this would have an effect on other people. After volunteering, I realised that a large number of people between the ages of 13 and 25 are going through some sort of mental health issue and many are unable to access the help they need for their well-being. Many of them come from dysfunctional family dynamics, do not have role models, struggle financially, have health issues, live in abusive environments – the list goes on – and all they want when they call Youthline is for someone to listen to them.
In my role, I put people first, and use the person-centred approach, which is Youthline’s methodology of assisting people who use their service. It’s easy to give someone advice and tell them what you think is right, but when it comes to being an active listener, it’s much harder. The urge to give advice is something that needs to be controlled. But, you don’t have to give them advice or tell them what to do – rather, you provide them support and allow them to take the lead in discussion so that they can come to their own conclusions. As a helpline counsellor, you act as a compassionate companion and put people first to understand their point of view in a non-judgmental way. You provide encouragement and support, and ultimately let them go on their own journey of self-discovery.
My experience at Youthline so far has been eye-opening. Hearing the stories and hardships people have managed to overcome only shows our strength and resilience as human beings. We are connected to people through people; we and our youth are the future and the nurturers of our next generation. It’s on us to create communities that are safe and healthy, that uplift one another and ensure that the people we’re with have the tools to live abundant, happy, and safe lives. Services like Youthline, Lifeline, and other helplines in New Zealand are reliant on volunteers to dedicate their time. These services wouldn’t be able to exist and flourish if we didn’t commit to the well-being of our communities and dedicate our time to ensuring that these services are running for our generation’s well-being.