Young people more likely to be discriminated against
Last year, 10.7% of young people aged 15-24 in NZ experienced a mood or anxiety disorder
– about 83,000 in total. These figures only include those diagnosed with a mental
illness, so it’s likely that many more young people are affected.
Sadly, evidence is growing that young people are more likely to be discriminated against
than older people who experience mental illness. Discrimination can take many shapes and
forms – whether it’s being called names at school, being excluded from family
gatherings, not getting interviews for jobs, and/or not being taken seriously by health
“When young people who have experienced mental illness are excluded, everyone misses
out,” says Director of Strategy, Advocacy & Research for the Mental Health
Foundation, Hugh Norriss. “Friends, family members, loved ones and older adults miss out
on the unique perspective that a young person who has experienced hardship can bring”,
Discrimination also has serious consequences for young people themselves. Many young
people who are experiencing distress don’t seek help due to fears of ridicule or abuse.
They can also internalise others’ negative views about mental illness, resulting in low
self-esteem that can further exacerbate distress.
POD: Young people leading the change
So what can be done to make mental illness discrimination a thing of the past? “Young
people are best placed to tackle social exclusion from their peers and others. Young
people listen to their peers, and they have the creativity to know what will make people
sit up and take notice”, says Hugh.
That’s why the Mental Health Foundation has launched a new project – POD (Point of
Difference). POD is a new project that will give young people who have experienced
mental illness a chance to develop creative ways to challenge people’s perceptions about
“We’re looking for young people with creative flair to help lead the change we need to
help create a New Zealand where everyone is accepted and included”, says Hugh.
POD is an incubator programme held over 6 months that will give young creatives the
industry contacts, tools for changing people’s attitudes and behaviours, and one-on-one
mentoring to help bring their vision to life. “We already have some truly exceptional
Kiwis lined up who are excited to share their expertise with young people who want to
create a better future”. POD is one of the 16 community projects funded by Like Minds,
Like Mine to end mental illness discrimination in Aotearoa.
What projects qualify for POD?
“There’s no limit on the creative projects that we’re looking for”, says Hugh. “POD
projects might be anything from making a video, staging a play, creating an art
exhibition, to a social media campaign to challenge mental health myths.”
One New Zealander who knows all about using art to challenge mental illness
discrimination is Sam Orchard. Sam is a New Zealand cartoonist who shares the ups, downs
and in-betweens of life as a trans guy in NZ – with a dash of his experiences with
depression and anxiety on the side.
When Sam first set up his comics website, Rooster Tails, he had no idea what
people would have to say.
Sam says he has been both blown away and humbled by what friends, family and complete
strangers have to say about his comics: “People really respond the most to comics I
write about how I’m not perfect, that I’m flawed, and that my life can be quite messy.
“Sometimes I’ll be really hesitant to put something up because it’s about something that
I don’t know if people will ‘get’, like constantly second-guessing whether my friends
really like me. And then someone will come and say ‘ME TOO!’ and it makes me so glad I
just put it out there.”
And Sam’s advice for future PODers? “Share as much or as little of yourself as you want
to share. I’ve held back on some things because I wasn’t ready to have it out in the
open yet. And just always remember why you did something in the first place. Sometimes
if people say something mean about my comics, I’m just like: 'well, that story wasn’t
Applications for the first POD close on 4 March, with further intakes in June 2016 and
February 2017. To find out more and to apply, visit www.pod.org.nz.
Applications for the first POD close on 4 March, with further intakes
in June 2016 and February 2017. To find out more and to apply, visit www.pod.org.nz.