Hap­pier end­ings ahead

Cam­paign to help kids open up about life’s chal­lenges

Hamilton News - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Row­land

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.

Photo / Univer­sity of Waikato

Waikato Univer­sity stu­dents Tay­lor Ham­lin (left) and Kale Isaac.

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