Monday, June 26, 2023

Alwyn Poole: The Mental Health of Our Children and Young People

It is to the shame of New Zealand’s adult community that news came out last week that in the last five years the number of anti-depressants issued to children and teens has increased by 53 per cent.

My memory of the mental health situation for children and young people five years ago was that it was not that things were utopian. It looks like the disappearing $1.9 billion for mental health is still on the way to being a solution.

Life is always difficult for someone, somewhere and every human being will have their share of that. Tragedies happen: sometimes deliberate or caused by the negligence of others, sometimes through sheer accident or illness. People get hurt in relationships or do the hurting.

There is no perfect marriage, nor any perfect family. We all face death at many points as we lose loved ones – and we all will face it for ourselves.

However, we have accentuated this to where, in current society, tragedy is an industry, media sensationalises it, politics is always based on ‘fixing’ problems and many individuals and organisations, from churches to charities, have huge financial/psychological vested interests in acclaiming existential threats for part, or all, of society.

There are problems that need fixing, but the pervading sense of hopelessness we exude impairs action more often than it motivates.

We are always better off with good help from others and in positive communities.

We also learn to moderate many of the societal messages and can remember when people were saying the same thing 20 years ago, 40 years ago or, with a bit of research, 400 years ago.

Children do not have the same maturity, experience or skillset to moderate the messages of gloom.

The starting point, if we want our children to be well and grow into positive and resilient adults, is that they have to be allowed to experience something called “childhood”.

In the past there were strong barriers between adult knowledge and that for children. The internet, for all of the positives, has burned them down.

Childhood needs to be a time when children are protected from the problems of the adult world as much as possible.

The superb film Life is Beautiful makes this point brilliantly.

Imprisoned by the Nazis, a father (played by Roberto Benigni) protects his son from the horrors of the situation through creating a game and drama.

Watching the film as adults we are always aware of the reality, but we also come to realise that the boy will be better able to deal with it through growing with innocence and unconditional love.

We need a parenting revolution in New Zealand where we surround our children with unconditional love, allow them to be inquisitive about the world, to talk, to play, to question their part in it and to grow as do young trees in a field when we fence out the cattle.

They need to be able to explore faith, hope and love without the cynicism, negativity and projected worries that adults too often pile them with.

Let alone verbal and physical violence.

The same is true in our schools and education system.

At every level we need to tell those who would impose adult problems and adult-vested interests, and seek to indoctrinate rather than educate, that they need to leave children alone.

For example, the world is not going to end in 10 years. If recent global patterns are followed it is likely to have a long and prosperous future – especially if children are allowed to grow with aspiration and idealism, as they will then be far more able to solve those problems as adults.

Issues of adult sexuality should not be punched down into the world of year one to eights as recent Ministry of Education documents insist upon. We [also] need to be so careful about imposing the politics of race that sets child against child.

It is not that these things don’t matter. They matter at the right levels, but they are being imposed on little humans with neither the developed brains nor experiences to understand and cope with them – nor any ability to make a difference in these moments.

Far too often now adults are choosing to have their ideological arguments with each other in the environment and playgrounds of the young.

Alwyn Poole, a well-known figure in the New Zealand education system, he founded and was the head of Mt Hobson Middle School in Auckland for 18 years. This article was published HERE


CXH said...

We have developed a society where victimhood is valued. That it is a good thing to believe the world is against you. As children are a mirror of society is it any wonder they are depressed.

Willow said...

I feel depressed when I look at our broken society and failing education system. . Loading scary things on little children like extreme climate change, racism, transgenderism, and epidemics when these are controversial and most likely false alarms and exaggerated has inevitably done severe damage to them.

It is actually perverse and evil and similar to putting children into a war zone.
The purpose of true education is to primarily teach academic subjects not indoctrinating children into promoting one particular ideological world view that borders on religious fanaticism.

Kawena said...

Our children do not know if they are Arthurs or Marthas now, partly because most of our elected representatives, on both sides of the house, allowed homosexuals to marry. I now see how education works. No wander our youngsters are all mixed up. What a bloody disgrace! Labour and National are both past their use-by date. They have to go!

Anonymous said...

Depressing isn't it? And here most of us thought children went to school to to be educated in those necessities, like the 3R's, and then on to the exciting world around them in more depth. But, no, let's indoctrinate them into a way of thinking that will have them question their own identity and purpose in life and fail them in teaching the necessities, so they will struggle for evermore. That's Labour, the Greens and Te Pati Maori for you.

Anonymous said...

So well said Alwyn. Another reason it is difficult for children to have a childhood now is the cellphone monster. It brings distraction, worry, bullying and harrassment to kids of all ages. I also suspect it has a big influence on falling education grades along with computers.
Bring back the simple life for kids, not all the rushing about from activity to activity while filling their heads with doom and gloom. And give them time to learn how to look after themselves in all ways.

mark hanley said...

Parents faced challenges throughout history. It was not so long ago that your child surviving to adulthood was a remarkable achievement.

My youngest is 18 so I saw my fair share of educational degradation through their school years. I challenged principals and teachers when it got too much but my main weapon was reasoned argument which demonstrated (for example) to my daughter that Maori health outcomes are not a result of institutional racism (as she had been taught), choice, culture and lifestyle are more prevalant determining factors.

So don't dispair, my children had a much better childhood than I did with more access to money and technology whilst enjoying the kiwi traditions of beach side camping, fishing, hunting, feasting, skiing, tramping, etc. They are also attaining better qualifications and higher earning potential then me.

Ps. My parental job would have been much easier if I didn't have to counter the public school system so I'm currently hard at work creating a private school fund for my future grandies.

Anonymous said...

What a load of utter tosh. Children faced the cold war and potential nuclear conflict, two world wars and a global depression and thrived but learning about gender is scarring them. Baloney