Children's mental health
The team of learners began their research project with a community assessment of Queenstown, talking with stakeholders and gathering information from online resources. The town's dependence on tourism meant that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly stressful for families. Children's mental health was one of the health needs that our learners identified and which they decided to investigate further. They felt it was important to address this with children early, before adolescence, to reduce the harm from drug use and the risk of suicide.
Children aged 5 to 9 are able to talk about their feelings but need help to talk about big emotions such as fear and worry. The Nursing learners therefore developed a resource aimed at this age group, with the message "It's okay not to feel okay". They produced posters for classrooms, in English and te reo.
The messages on the posters encourage children to identify and name their feelings, and to use this self-awareness to manage their responses to those feelings, including seeking help. There will be good days and bad days, and they should not expect everything to be perfect. An associated resource booklet, for parents and caregivers, includes a list of red flags showing high levels of distress and perhaps the need for professional mental health care services.
A separate health promotion resource was created for children 10-14 years old. This campaign is Kai & Kōrero: Let's get talking, and included stickers as well as a poster. The goal is to encourage conversations about how they are feeling, to normalise talking about feelings.
These resources have been provided to the charge nurse of the community mental health team in Queenstown to consider how they might best be used and distributed.