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Carole and I have just returned from Noosa where we spent three relaxing weeks in sunny warm temperatures. Just what the doctor ordered after another Wellington winter.

As you do when you are holiday you have time to read, five books in three weeks for me, and to watch a bit of television. One particular morning I was watching the breakfast show on Channel Nine and an interview with a young Australian man, I would put him at around 35 years of age, who had graduated with a teaching degree. Unfortunately I didn’t get the name of this young guy as it wasn’t until the interview had progressed that I really started to take interest and listen to him.

Following his graduation he wanted to travel and took on the role of teaching small Indian children, in a very remote desert like area of India, and was absolutely fascinated with how happy the children were. All very happy but living in poverty like conditions. One small boy he took a real liking to.

This small boy had absolutely no material possessions, he didn’t even have a bed to sleep on and yet he always had a smile on his face and would do anything to help other children. This got the young teacher very interested as to why, when this little boy who was a member of a very poor family living in appalling conditions with a very uncertain future, was always so happy and contented.

The young teacher decided to extend his education with post graduate research on why this boy and his peers were so happy and yet Australia, like NZ, is recording increased number of mental issues in young people. He stated the latest Australian research, just released, indicates that 40% of Australian secondary school age children suffer from mental illness, depression being most common, and 24.8% of primary school age children also suffer from a mental illness. Why can this be so when compared to the small boy and his peers in India who were so happy?

The research undertaken, and supported by other international research, confirmed there are three distinct areas that today’s young people suffer from, living in a so called affluent society, that contribute to this increasing rate of mental problems with young people.

The three are:

Gratitude – the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Empathy – the ability to understand and share feelings of another.

Mindfulness – maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of personal thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and surrounding environment.

When asked what one thing the young teacher thought is assisting in creating this growing problem he said the research also indicated there is distinct co-relationship between expediential increased mobile phone use and mental issues with young people.

It was certainly a very interesting and thought provoking interview.

President's Column - Mental health issues with young people


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