Youth Emotional Wellbeing: We can’t wait, and surface-level is not deep enough.

Youth jumping showing a shadow

I want to begin this post by sharing some statistics.

  • Provisional 2018/2019 coronial findings state suicide deaths in New Zealand are 685, that’s 13.93 lives per 100,000. This is the highest number since reporting began in 2007/8 and 17 more than last year.
  • There was also an increase in the number of young people dying by suicide, particularly in the 15 to 19 and 20 to 24 age ranges, with children as young as 10 years old taking their lives in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
  • Māori were also over-represented, with a heart-wrenching suicide rate of 28.23 deaths per 100,000.
  • From 2007/2008 deaths by suicide have fluctuated mildly, however since 2012/2013 (over 5 years), there has been a consistent rise of 144 people, an average increase of 28.8 lives lost each year. 
  • Unicef has also ranked New Zealand 34th out of 41 OECD and European Union nations after averaging-out a series of key social indicators.

There is also a shift in the emotional wellbeing of our youth in their everyday lives. In 2016 a NZ Ministry of Health annual report highlighted the realities of student emotional well-being finding: 

“Children diagnosed with behavioural or emotional issues has doubled to 34,000 since 2006/7”.

“More than 15,500 children were diagnosed with anxiety – up from 2800 in the 2013”.

This stuff’s real people!

I can bet as you read these statistics, you will have either directly or indirectly been affected in your lifetime.

It’s not out-there, away from us. We aren’t immune. It’s in our lives. In our families and whānau.

Consider also the ripple effect of Covid19-related job losses, and the world our youth are going into, and the urgency for addressing this is further amplified.

I am passionate about developing the emotional intelligence of your youth, leaders and teams.

When we are emotionally agile, strong and balanced, we are able to better deal with the ups and downs of life.

We have a strong sense of self, a connection with our environment and an ability to connect with others in a way that brings out their (and our) best.

When we use the term Emotional Intelligence, people often go straight to the belief that it’s all about knowing how we are feeling and being able to express this, or that it’s all about resilience, or mindfulness. Yes, it is this…and so much more.

My concern is that we have an education sector in New Zealand that likes shiny-things over deep substance.

Let’s get the children filling-in mindfulness colouring books. Let’s get them learning how to meditate. Let’s fill in worksheets about their feelings. And let’s throw the phrases ‘resilience’ or a ‘growth mindset’ around like confetti without deeply unpacking what they are.

Please don’t get me wrong, some of these strategies can be helpful, but my challenge to you is are you skimming the surface, or are you prepared to dig deeper?

So rather than stand on my soapbox, I decided to use my skills and training to make a difference.

I have co-led research into the effects of deliberate acts of teaching on the emotional intelligence of primary aged children at a school in Cambridge, New Zealand.

This research involved students, parents/whānau and teachers. It included youth emotional intelligence self-assessments that were run by certified in-school coaches and assessors. It included development plans that were co-constructed with the child, their parents/whānau and teachers (triangulated). It also included twenty weeks of weekly deliberate acts of small-group teaching from the certified coaches (also experienced teachers), with weekly feedback to parents/whānau and teachers. Finally it included post-assessments.

The final data showed that when we deeply understand the elements of emotional intelligence and deliberately teach these, not only is student emotional intelligence positively developed, so too is that of their whānau.

My aim is to partner with schools or kāhui ako who wish to commit to a sustainable model in order to create Unshakable youth who will then become adults who contribute to New Zealand society with their own unique talents and skills. I aim to partner with schools/Kāhui Ako to make an impact on youth, giving them the Unshakable Emotional Wellbeing that will carry them into their adult lives.

Want to find out more?

This Unshakeable whitepaper outlines the research and partnership pathway for schools and kāhui Ako.


Contact me to book a time to chat.

Need a speaker?

There are plenty of speakers to choose from. I am not the norm. You won’t be bored to tears by the same ole’ approach and dribble. How about bringing Mary-Anne for the conference or all-staff day.

Give me a stage and I’ll own it. Give me a room and I’ll energise it. Give me your people and I’ll inform and inspire them. 

Need virtual delivery – no sweat! I have facilitated virtual full and half-day workshops, virtual keynote speaking at online conferences, and might I say, you still get the Mary-Anne goodness you deserve!

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