Boost for children’s mental health tools

A mental health initiative launched in Cromwell yesterday takes a holistic approach to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

Highlands Motorsport Park announced it would fund a community social worker and mental health first aid workshops for pupils in Cromwell for the next five years.

Highlands owner Tony Quinn said with one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world, it was no secret New Zealand faced mental health challenges, particularly among young people.

"If we can save one life, then it will be worthwhile. I lost a daughter to cancer when she was 40 and for any parent to bury their child is a hugely traumatic thing to go through.

"As a community, we want to try and avoid that at all costs."

After approaching Cromwell’s three schools— Goldfields Primary School, Cromwell Primary School and Cromwell College — and alongside the Cromwell Youth Trust (CYT), Highlands chief executive officer Josie Spillane said the urgent need was identified for a social worker in schools.

Highlands wanted to ensure every child was supported from an early age, she said.

"Our team is part of this community. Our kids go to school in Cromwell, play sports for the local teams and so were very aware they are growing up at a time when they are dealing with some very adult themes. We wanted to ensure that every child gets the right tools from the beginning to set them up for life, and ensure that as parents and a community we have those tools to support them too."

A mental health initiative announced by Highlands Motorsport Park yesterday will take a holistic...
A mental health initiative announced by Highlands Motorsport Park yesterday will take a holistic approach to supporting young people. Involved are (from left) Cromwell Youth Trust (CYT) board member Tamah Alley, Cromwell Kahui Ako across school wellbeing lead Tineke Hayes, Quinn family representative Kristan Yu, Highlands chief executive officer Josie Spillane, Cromwell Youth Trust manager Rhys Smith and Highlands manager of people and projects James Woodcock. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON

Supporting families to access assistance, support networks and information about their rights and entitlements, with a particular focus on mental health and education would be key.

Highlands would fund After School Kids programmes this year to connect with pupils around mental health through engagement and activities.

Youth trust board member and former police youth aid officer Tamah Alley said she backed the initiative "100%" and approached Highlands to see how the youth trust could provide support.

"It’s needed everywhere, not just in Cromwell," she said.

The Covid-19 pandemic heightened challenges already experienced by young people, with lockdowns and uncertainty increasing mental health issues.

"This initiative will make a tangible difference to the lives of many families in Cromwell."


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