Include Mental Health Education in the NZ Secondary School Curriculum

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According to the Ministry of Social Development in 2016, ‘New Zealand's youth (15–24 years) suicide rate was the highest among the 34 OECD countries, ahead of Finland for males and Korea for females.’ That is a horrifying and shameful statistic. 

Whether we blame things like social media, post-colonization or a ‘harden up’ culture, we’re missing the point; our young people are struggling, and currently we’re not doing much to help. To focus our attention on identifying what contributes to depression and other psychological disorders is to assume that we can somehow control each and every one of these factors - this approach is not practical in the real world, and it doesn't provide a solution. But we do know what works in other areas like teenage pregnancy, and that is education.

Including mental health in the NZ high school curriculum, alongside subjects like sexual health and nutrition, can empower our youth to the degree that they’re not just capable of managing their own psychological health - they can identify the warning signs in others, too, and create networks of support in their own communities for those around them. The possibilities for positive change can be exponential. 

We know that the introduction of sexual health education has led to fewer rates of pregnancy among young people. Our youth have proven that they’re more than capable of navigating their own lives and making the right decisions when they’ve been given the proper set of tools. Let’s do that by introducing mental health to the New Zealand high school curriculum.