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Novel method of promoting youth wellbeing

Tuesday, 20 May 2014, 1:55 pm
Press Release: Victoria University of Wellington


20 May 2014

Novel method of promoting youth wellbeing

A graphic novel developed by Victoria University of Wellington researchers aims to promote how young New Zealanders struggling with depression and other mental illness can seek help.

A Choice is the first of several resources in the making as part of the Youth Wellbeing Study, a research project led by Dr Marc Wilson, head of Victoria’s School of Psychology, which focuses on non-suicidal self-injury.

The research team partnered with Onslow College in Wellington to develop the narrative, with students contributing to weekly story-boarding sessions. Imagery was provided by Ant Sang, award-winning illustrator of the popular television series bro’Town.

Matthew Kan, an Onslow College student, says it was an inspiring experience. “The final copy of the comic book turned out amazing, and the process motivated me to understand depression and how to get help.”

Dr Jessica Garisch, Research Fellow and coordinator of the Youth Wellbeing Project, says “although there are numerous resources internationally, there are few resources developed specifically for young New Zealanders based on information collected from this population themselves”.

Research shows that up to half of New Zealand’s young people will engage in some form of self-injury by the time they leave school. “Hence this is a crucial area to develop further understanding and resources to assist teens, schools, whānau and the community,” says Dr Garisch.

An important part of the Youth Wellbeing Study, which runs until 2016, is developing useful resources for adolescents, their whānau, and school staff about how to best support young people who self-injure.

The study also includes a longitudinal survey with secondary school students from 15 regional schools and interviews and focus groups with school counsellors, social workers and youth.

Emma-Jayne Brown, a psychology PhD student who facilitated the development of A Choice, says “we’re really proud of the graphic novel and hope it can aid in the discourse around such important issues”.

A Choice can be downloaded here:

© Scoop Media

Psychoactive substances are now illegal – getting support

Psychoactive substances, or ‘legal highs’, will become illegal at midnight today, Wednesday 7 May 2014 In New Zealand, after urgent legislation was passed in parliament. Find out what information is available for the addiction sector and wider community in response to the likely increase in concern for people wanting to access support.

People who are concerned about the health effects stemming from the use of psychoactive substances, or withdrawal from, and need confidential advice and support for themselves or someone they know, contact the Alcohol and Drug Helpline, 0800 787 797.

Matua Raki has the following guidelines available free for download.

Managing Your Own Withdrawal: A Guide for People Trying to Stop Using Drugs and or Alcohol
If you are concerned about your own use of psychoactive substances or someone else’s and would like information about how to manage your own withdrawal please download this booklet for some useful tips.

Substance Withdrawal Management: Guidelines for Medical and Nursing Practitioners in Primary Health, Specialist Addiction, Custodial and General Hospital Settings
These guidelines have been approved by the Ministry of Health for health professionals to assist in the appropriate management of withdrawal symptoms from psychoactive substances.

Substance Withdrawal Management: Guidelines for Addiction and Allied Practitioners
These guidelines are approved by the Ministry of Health and provide an overview of the effects of substances, associated withdrawal symptoms and risk assessment and general withdrawal management strategies, for addiction and allied practitioners.

The power of mindfulness to change your world by Dr Elise Bialylew

Technology is developing exponentially, and at the click of a button we can access an infinite amount of information. With this privilege, comes the potential cost of information overload, increased distractibility and low-grade background anxiety as we try to keep on top of things.

With invisible umbilical cords connecting us to our devices, staying focused is an increasing challenge. Our attention buzzes around with the restlessness of a mosquito fluttering between emails, Facebook, Twitter, and text messages.

Many of us are suffering from what Dr Ed Hallowell, specialist psychiatrist in ADHD, coined as Attention Deficit Trait. He describes it as “a condition induced by modern life, in which you’ve become so busy attending to so many inputs and outputs that you become increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless and, over the long term, underachieving. In other words, it costs you efficiency because you’re doing so much or trying to do so much, it’s as if you’re juggling one more ball than you possibly can.”

If we wish to remain healthy, happy and clear-minded we need to upgrade our ‘inner technology’ to meet the demands of our increasingly complex world. We are standing on the precipice of a potential paradigm shift with an exciting dialogue unfolding at the intersection of science, technology and the world of wisdom.

Leaders in the fields of science, technology and meditation are coming together at extraordinary gatherings like the Wisdom 2.0 conference or the Mind and Life Institute, to explore how we can bring more mindfulness into the digital age.

There is a rapid growth of scientific research, revealing what the Buddhist monks have known for generations but couldn’t measure with machines: meditation is a powerful tool for enhanced well-being and mental focus. Meditation teaches us how to use our inner technology to understand the workings of the mind and in so doing, re-sculpts our brains for the better. Meditation is not about becoming passive or giving up on your goals or future plans. In fact, it’s a perfect companion to developing your capacity to think more clearly, be more effective and find wiser solutions to challenging problems.

Leading companies in the world, including Google are offering mindfulness training to their employees, recognising the benefits of meditation in supporting more clarity, innovation and productivity.

Science is supporting the fact that just two months of regular mindfulness meditation can have significant benefits. When regularly practiced, meditation has been shown to increase our immune function, grow our prefrontal cortex (required for strategic thinking and problem solving), and possibly even protect against DNA damage caused by ageing (through increasing a protective enzyme, Telomerase).

To really benefit from meditation, the problem is you actually have to do it. Meditation commonly falls by the wayside for even the most enthusiastic amongst us. Just like physical exercise, bringing a habit of regular meditation into your life can be quite a challenge. So often it seems like there’s not enough time or we just “don’t feel like doing it.” The thing is, there is research to suggest that even 10 minutes of meditation, five days a week can improve our attention and focus.

Sometimes we need support to follow through on our intentions. Having the support of others or doing something that helps us feel we’re making a meaningful difference in the world can boost our motivation. This logic has fuelled the creation of Mindful in May, a one-month meditation campaign starting on May 1, and delivered online. It will teach you how to meditate and at the same time help bring clean water to those in developing countries.

To date, the Mindful in May global community has raised enough money to build water projects in Ethiopia and Rwanda, helping transform the lives of thousands of people. You’ll get a one month meditation program including 10 minute guided meditations on a weekly basis, access to exclusive video interviews with global experts in the field of meditation and mind well-being, and a daily dose of inspiration through curated internet links.

In the developed world most of us have our survival needs met, but it’s our minds that can cause so much of our suffering. The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the second-leading cause of global disability burden by 2020. In the developing world, it’s something as basic as a lack of access to clean, safe water that causes so much suffering. Contaminated water is still one of the leading causes of disease and death in the developing world.

Mindful in May addresses both of these issues by offering people a way to learn how to become masters rather than slaves to their minds, whilst helping to improve the lives of thousands of people living without access to safe drinking water. It’s 10 minutes a day of meditation to create a clear mind for you and clean water for others.

The challenge starts on May 1 so register before then, donate and invite your friends or colleagues to create a meditation fundraising team to help bring clean water to those in need. Together, let’s see how far we can spread this Mindful Ripple.


Start the conversation today

Lifeline Aotearoa launches next phase of suicide prevention campaign –‘Start the conversation today – Me tīmata te kōrero i tēnei rā!’

The campaign to date has seen the launch of New Zealand’s first Suicide Helpline 0508 TAUTOKO (82 88 65) and six television adverts encouraging people to reach out for help, while also showing how suicide affects us all, and is a community issue.

Lifeline will release a series of thirty-five long and short web-whakaaro from Maori and Pasifika community members who wanted to contribute something meaningful about the topic of suicide.

“This next phase consists of a series of web-whakaaro. Whakaaro can mean ‘thought, opinion, idea or gift’ in te reo Māori, which I think captures what this next phase is all about.” says Lifeline CEO, Jo Denvir.

"It’s about positive engagement with members of the Maori and Pasifika community, where we can listen and share together in the many diverse thoughts or whakaaro around this issue.”

This week Lifeline showcases whakaaro from Pacific Inc and Le Va CEO Dr Monique Faleafa, Māori broadcaster and producer Annabelle Lee Harris, Māori actor, writer, poet, presenter and eco-warrior Anatonio Te Maioha and actress Amber Cureen.

The campaign has been running since 2011 and over the past two years Maori Television and tvCentral have picked the TAUTOKO adverts up.

“We look forward to a future where TVNZ and TV3 take up the opportunity to reach out to their viewers as well.” Ms Denvir says. “But its baby steps, you have to go at the same pace as the community, so we can all hopefully end up together in the same place.”

To check out Lifeline’s Suicide Prevention Education web-whakaaro series click here.

If you, or someone you know is thinking about suicide, or if you have been affected by the death or injury of someone to suicide, call 0508 TAUTOKO (82 88 65) for support from trained suicide first aid professionals.

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