Happier endings ahead
Campaign to help kids open up about life’s challenges
A positive message on the back of an exercise book could change or even save a life — and the goal of two University of Waikato students is to make it happen.
Born on the same day, four years apart, Taylor Hamlin, 20, and Kale Isaac, 24, have seen the statistics of youth suicide in New Zealand, and are working to make a change with their campaign Positive Messages for Kiwi Kids.
The two students, both studying conjoint degrees of Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Management Studies, said the basis of the idea is to start a conversation with the next generation about mental health. A conversation that could start with motivating and inspiring words on the back of student’s exercise books — a space that is now usually left blank.
“All students grow up seeing this space, so to use it to spread positivity would hopefully begin to change the heart-breaking statistics New Zealand has with youth suicide,” Taylor said.
The duo are now working with mental health professionals on the best messages to display on the back of the exercise books.
“We have started playing with a few designs to tell a story in a fun and interactive way while spreading important messages.”
“We aim to finish a few mock-ups in the next few weeks and start the conversation with book manufacturers about how we can work together.”
They want to shape the attitude around studying and the pressure that students put on themselves.
“We really hope to remove the stigma around talking about mental health and offer kids the tools they need to better deal with their mental health or to help friends and family members who may have problems.
The idea came in August, when the two students attended a University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok, with the theme “Inspiring Confidence, Inspire Change”.
“There were over 1000 students from 87 countries. It was incredibly inspiring, particularly hearing from some great leaders talking about how everyone has the power to change things.”
Taylor and Isaac would ultimately like to see the suicide rate become zero in New Zealand.
“We dream of a society where everyone can communicate about what’s going on in their minds and reach out when they have a problem.
“When you see someone with a broken arm, everyone comes running to sign their cast and offer assistance to help them get better. When someone says they are going through mental health problems, a lot of people run away. We want to change this and see the brain being treated like any other part of your body,” Taylor says.
Waikato University students Taylor Hamlin (left) and Kale Isaac.