join the dots or paint by numbers?

So, it seems like the hot topic this year is youth/teen suicide. Kicking off with 13 reasons why and now the NZ media has spent a few weeks on various angles (especially the New Zealand Herald). I’ve been wondering what conversations young people are having with each other. I’ve been contemplating how technology might be connected in positive and negative ways. It’s been a long time since I was at school, but I do remember the feeling of being in despair. I needed someone to care enough to really listen, to just ‘get it’. I was lucky I had someone at school to go to, maybe that is one of the reasons I ended up as a school counsellor. But part of me is concerned that young people want to fix everything for their mates, to take up all the responsibility for someones well-being and safety. Being available 24/7 to their friends who are in distress, not sleeping, worrying, burning out and getting pulled into the dark.

So while there is all these experts and ideas about preventing suicide, like a bunch of dots on a page ready to be joined, I think some people have already decided what young people need and just tell them how to make sense of their lives, give them a ‘paint by numbers’ formula for working through the hard stuff, and I’m not sure it’s helping. There are lots of popular ideas about how to be happy, fulfilled and have a ‘good life’. Set goals, have a career path, be organised, bla bla bla ‘adulty talk’.

I just think life is messy and we’ve tried to tidy it up too much. Messy includes uncertainty, upset, grief and loss, frustration, confusion, worry and doubt. It includes awkward, uncomfortable, exciting and risky. If you do have a friend who is on the edge, get your own anchors and safety lines in first – talk to an adult, share the load, seek support. Don’t do it on your own, get help.

Beautiful young people of Aotearoa – you are valued, you are treasures- taonga. Thank you for being part of my world and helping me become a better adult through sharing your pain. Share your pain and help an adult or friend grow their capacity to care.


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