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New research providing hope for rangatahi

Emily Ansell
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Youth lead hope research - pamphlets  Emily Ansell - curtesy of The Collaborative Trust

Youth Week may be coming to an end, but a new research report on hope is ensuring the experiences of rangatahi remain at the forefront of some people’s minds.

Daunting global issues such as climate change and war, as well as local systemic issues like poverty and inequity, have been found at the root of a lot of distress in our younger generation.

Aotearoa has some of the worst youth mental illness statistics – our rates of suicide within this group are one of the worst in the OECD.

Researchers on this project identified hope as a solution.

“Young people do better in life when they feel a sense of hope – when they have a long-term focus and faith in their future and that of the people close to them, the wider community or their environment.” – Youth-Led Summary of the Research

Yesterday a hui was held at Christchurch’s 298 Youth Health to launch the results of the youth-led study. Using a peer research model, six rangatahi were selected to interview other young people in their community about hope. 

For some, hope as a research concept may not initially be considered a tangible one.

However, the study’s researchers said it became clear there were a number of key similarities in participants' views on hope, both in the things that made them feel hopeless, and hopeful.

“We started out super vague, and as we went along with the interviewing process it was like, oh, there are definitely recurring themes that everybody’s saying,” said peer researcher Eliot Aster-Forrest.

“Housing, financial situations, poverty, family support, disability awareness, LGBTQ awareness… for us, these are things that we talk about all the time.”

The study’s lead researcher Sarah Wylie said the future focus was one of the strongest commonalities.

“[There was] this sense that it propels you forward, so there was an energy behind the word that seemed to come through from just about every young person that we talked to.”

Wylie said they were especially keen to hear from young people who don’t often get a voice. Over half of participants were Māori – others from the disability and LGBTQ communities. 

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Eliot Forrest (Peer researcher), Ricky Reeves (Peer researcher), Sarah Wylie (Lead researcher), Nakoda Tamaira-Cooper (Peer researcher) Emily Ansell

Peer researcher Ricky Reeves interviewed a number of people living with disabilities. He himself has impaired sight, so Wylie assisted as a scribe. She said watching the interviews was fascinating.

“I was quite blown away with the stuff from a number of young people with learning disabilities. [It] was just mind blowing in terms of that perspective, that awareness of the things that were getting in the way of hope for them.”

The process itself also revolved around hope in other unexpected ways. Peer researcher Peggy Tombs noted the conversations themselves instilled hope in the young people she interviewed, as well as with herself.

Wylie said this was an experience shared by all the young researchers. It tied into another main finding, that hope was generated through feeling connected.

The research is part of the work of the Collaborative Trust, and received funding from Oakley Mental Health Research Foundation.

Those involved hope their findings help inform and progress support for young people. 

Wylie said the knowledge would be used in workshops to educate those who interact with young people on a day-to-day basis such as teachers, doctors and counsellors.

“I’m also really hopeful, keen that they might pick it up and take it forwards too, even if it’s just a discussion in a youth group… hearing other young people talking about hope makes you reflect on your own sense of hope and where you get that from.”

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Funding from the Oakley Foundation allowed the creation of two pamphlets summarizing the findings. One for rangatahi suggesting ways they can support their own sense of hope - the other for adults detailing what young people need. Emily Ansell

The other peer researchers involved shared Wylie's aspirations. They believe these findings can provide real solutions to the country’s dire youth mental illness statistics. In other words, using the concept of hope to instil hope in New Zealand’s rangatahi.