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reThiNK-ing youth resources

The saying, “if you want something done, ask a busy person” could have been written for Mind & Body Consultant, Taimi Allan.

Based in Auckland, the busy communications and mental health promotion manager is responsible for Mind & Body’s reThiNK creative resource for youth, which will include performance, online information, video and audio stories and lesson plans.

Juggling her demanding work schedule has not stopped Taimi from moving the three-year project for high school-to-24-year-olds steadily in the right direction.

“We are using education strategies – including a phone App activity – and the power of contact to challenge young people’s attitudes towards mental illness in an engaging, non-confrontational and emotionally involving way,” Taimi says. “The aim is to reduce discrimination and increase social inclusion for young people who experience mental illness.”

Eliminating judgement through understanding

Taimi is currently working through the development phase with the assistance of 200-250 senior students from St Cuthbert’s and Green Bay high schools and their respective counselling and careers teams.

Once completed the web-based resource will align with the New Zealand health curriculum so that students can receive NCEA points - and contain four main elements:

  • Ten interactive, educational workshop activities that destigmatise mental illness and can be led by senior students and/or teachers. The 20-minute long activities will cover a variety of genres (performance, writing, music) and address a range of mental illnesses, as well as appealing to diverse demographics (ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation).
  • Two hope-inducing profiles about young people with experience of mental illness (written, visual and audio).
  • Downloadable Big reTHiNK scripts for theatre with the accompanying theatre videos.
  • Training PDFs that include step-by-step lesson plans with discussion points, facilitator notes, research and evidence, key messages, where attitudes come from, and what inclusion looks like.

“All the elements involve thinking about wellness holistically and taking ‘judgement’ out of everything,” Taimi explains. “That’s really important because it is not just about mental illness, it’s about looking at the human realm of experience as a whole so we understand how to keep ourselves well.”

Reaching a world-wide audience

The project is not without its challenges, as Taimi makes sure it works for the widest possible audiences, “including those we haven’t even thought of yet”.

“We have to make the online resource visually and operationally interesting for youth from all backgrounds, and for groups as small as two or as large as 200 people,” Taimi explains. “It’s also important to ensure the power of contact even when the workshops are delivered by someone who has no personal experience. 

The end result will be a free, online, digital resource that anyone, anywhere in the world can access and use. It needs to stand on its own and be straight forward, simple, accessible, translatable and work well when printed in colour or black and white.

“It’s a very exciting project to be involved with – especially knowing that eventually millions could end up using it,” Taimi says.   

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