Dear Huhana and Kāhu,
Aotearoa has the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world.
Again, Aotearoa has the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world. Twice as high as the U.S, and five times as high as Britain.
After youth, the next group most at risk of suicide in New Zealand are Maori/Pacific Islanders, then it’s the LGBTQ community. Kāhu and Huhana, you both fit at least two of those three high-risk groups. So this is an important thing for you to think about. Life or death important. Society will tell you what being strong is, for the most part, they’re wrong – you definitely don’t need to ‘tough it out’ alone.
I built the habits of writing music, journaling and exercise into my life early on. They were, and are, how I survived in the holes left in our family when two of my sisters, your aunties, were torn away from us as young children. I didn’t realise this until those same routines helped me process and treat taking a life when I was a young adult. I now know that those habits are how I cope with everything, and I prioritise them as such. That’s how I carry those sadnesses and that guilt while living a happy, fulfilled life. I can scream angrily at the microphone. I cry writing sad songs, stories, and streams of consciousness in my journal. When those heavy emotions
were are processed and balanced, I’m free to take in and take on the rest of the world with an open heart and eyes. And that processing isn’t done and dusted, it never is, I need to re-balance all the time. But because I’ve found re-balancing mechanisms I love and enjoy, those routines are now parts of my life that I look forward to every day.
Please take your mental well-being seriously. If you need to see a counsellor or someone else who can help, do it.
- Find a way to express yourself safely.
- Find friends who let you be honest, accepted and loved – your family will be there for that too.
- Find a way to communicate and translate your thoughts and feelings – not just the strange ones that surprise and scare you as they stomp through your still-growing brain. Being able to articulate even your day-to-day, seemingly boring emotions is a life-skill. It builds self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
- Find a way to exercise regularly.
- If you need to, see a counsellor.
Later, it will be your job to treat your mental health with the urgency it quietly screams for. It’s not a choice, you need to, our bodies and brains evolved that way. We’re designed to live in tribes and co-regulate our emotions alongside others with honesty and acceptance. We worked together in hunting parties; we sat weaving with our mothers and grandmothers, dug kumara pits, and swum in the sea. We fought, literally ran from threats; we danced around the campfire, wrote songs and played games.
When an animal pack or human tribe performs a ritual (all those in attendance participate in one way or another), they attain analagous (similar) emotional regulation – Emerging ritual in secular societies.
Those rituals and reactions helped us regulate our emotions. Our brains are hard-wired for that co-regulation – we need it.
The results of this study support theories that suggest play, creativity, and emotion regulation are linked – Hoffmann, Jessica,Russ, Sandra