Waikato millennials talk drugs, addiction and suicide

WAIKATO More than 120 young people from all corners of the Waikato region turned up to participate in Seed Waikato’s May event Mental Health & Addiction Kōrero last night.

The event, held at Zeal Hamilton, was spearheaded by a group of millennials passionate about co-creating a better tomorrow and determined to break the silence around these taboo subjects.

“It is a scary proposition that our nation has the highest youth suicide rates in the developed world, and worryingly our attempted suicide rates are rising,” says Seed Waikato Chair and Co-Founder Gemma Major.

“Despite the abundance of opportunity in our world today, more of my generation is suffering from mental distress. More than 16 per cent of the Waikato region is in the 18 – 30 bracket, meaning our community is deeply affected by the mental health crisis.”

Seed Waikato will carefully curate the feedback generated from last night’s event to create a submission for the Government’s Mental Health Inquiry.

“We have a responsibility to make our voices heard, to step up and be part of the solution,” Mrs Major says.

Small business owner Amy McLean, musician Aaron Boyens, youth mentor Shane Way and design student Elliot Wilks were just a few to partner on the event.

For the Founder of Let’s Lead NZ, Amy McLean, being part of the event was personal.

“Depression took a hold over our home throughout my childhood, and I saw firsthand many things that were wrong with the system; that are still wrong with the system. We’re here to shed light on those situations, so that those who are suffering and their whānau have better information, better support and better quality of life,” Ms McLean says.

Co-founder of The Creators Aaron Boyens said the event was important to him because safe kōrero about these topics is absolutely vital to the growth and strength of our community.

“To better function as a Hamilton family, we need to foster encouraging, constructive conversation about the things we all struggle with. The Creators have partnered with the kaupapa of this event because we believe safe kōrero can help catalyse stronger friendships and over time, healthier more vibrant communities,” Mr Boyens says.

Shane Way participated in the event to tautoko the evening’s kaupapa: to have an open and honest conversation about these taboo subjects.

“Queer youth are five times more likely to experience depressive tendencies and attempt suicide – to us, that is heart-breaking. Our Queer Community is still ostracised and segregated. We know we need help, and we need people to listen. This kōrero is a necessity, not just for the queer community but for all Waikato youth,” Mr Way says.

Elliot Wilks, Vice-President of the Waikato Students Union, was pleased to support the event.

“We know students face many pressures when attending University, but what is rarely discussed, is the dangerous consequences this is having on individual’s wellbeing. We are seeing many positive changes and efforts around the University in terms mental health, but there is still much to be done. Getting community groups and organisations together to un-pick this issue is a great step forward for the Waikato region.”

The event was made possible by partnering with Graeme Dingle Foundation Waikato, Hamilton Young Professionals, Lets Lead NZ, The Creators, Waikato Queer Youth, Waikato Students’ Union, Young Workers Resource Centre, YWCA of Hamilton, National Council of Women – Hamilton, and Zeal.

Seed Waikato holds one event every month. The next event Finding Purpose in Your Playground is on June 20.

Media contact: Holly Bennett 021 843 454


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