Young minds find tech solutions for mental health

Lifehack Weekends are giving young people the opportunity to create technology-based solutions to aid mental health issues.

Paula Bennett, Social Development Minister, says that the Lifehack events, part of the Government’s Social Media Innovations Fund, give young people the reins to create tools that work for them, supported by technology experts, academics, and other mentors.

“Lifehack acknowledges that politicians and policy creators don’t have all the answers when it comes to youth mental health, and we sure don’t have the tech skills and online nous that now comes so naturally to young people,” Bennett says.

This year, groups throughout New Zealand will be able to participate, extending the initiative’s reach further than that of the augural Lifehack in 2013.  The success of last year’s event led to several projects that are now under development, including an app aimed at helping young people deal with harmful feelings, and a tool that lets older children customise avatars to guide them through problems they may face. Lifehack is supported by the Social Media Innovations Fund, one of the nine Ministry of Social Development-led initiatives in the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project.

“Following the first event in Christchurch this year, which included input from the Student Volunteer Army’s Sam Johnson, Lifehack Weekends now move to the regions, compared to being held solely in major cities in 2013,” Bennett says.

“It’s fantastic to see this initiative moving wider across the country, where more young people will have the chance to give us a piece of their minds about what they need to combat the problems they face.”

Bennett says that young West Coasters have already come up with two great ideas from their weekend in March.

The first is SoundCarving, which explores how music, in particular an online music hub, can help to create a sense of belonging in young people. Local high school students are developing the project with assistance from Tai Poutini Polytechnic.

A second project is You Know You’re A Coaster, which looks to build a social media campaign to give West Coast youth a sense of pride in their hometown.

The next city to experience Lifehack is Invercargill in May, followed by Northland in June, with further announcements due soon.

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