society

Train of thought part 2

My first week of using public transport has opened my eyes to a new world. I’ve partially adapted to the culture of the morning commute, which I describe as ‘the zombie apocalypse’. Everyone looks half dead, no-one is speaking or smiling or interacting. I had one human interaction the whole week a single ‘good morning’ which I received after I initiated contact. This was the one person I sat next to who didn’t have headphones in or was talking on the phone. I watched enviously as people boarded with bikes, that will definitely be my next step.

I was still easing in to full time work so the train home varied depending on the time I left. My favourite was just after 3pm when intermediate aged students were boarding. I enjoyed listening to their banter about school, laughing like human beings. On Friday I was even more adventurous catching the train from a new station and then a bus at the other end. I raced up to the platform hoping to catch the next bus, searching the times I couldn’t believe they only ran every 30 minutes. I had 20 minutes to wait so decided to risk using to bathroom. Big mistake, never again, honestly it could not have been further from the clean, well maintained, fresh smelling, well lit experience of the train. The bus finally arrived, but if it hadn’t been for my familiarity of the area I would have wondered where the fuck we were going.

Basically I think the bus routes in Auckland were made up by some drunk people at Auckland Transport one night by throwing darts at the map and saying ‘yip that street will do’, or let snails loose on a map with ink in their slime to mark out routes – who knows but it’s honestly random AF. If the trains are direct then buses are there to ensure you have to have a degree in geography, synchronising times and do not expect to get anywhere in a hurry. But I did get home and I’m definitely more positive overall, but I am counting down to getting back on the bike. I’d happily take daily abuse from motorists and random strangers chatting to me at the lights than the zombies.

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I’m out

Suicide is a sensitive topic and the media has bravely gone there with gusto over the last few weeks. I understand why, NZ leads the OECD – our stats are nothing to be proud of. People are desperate to know why, to work on prevention, to fix this epidemic, to grow resilience, to start conversations that make space for people to express their feelings.

All important steps. All these things need to happen, and schools do need better resourcing. Which is why it still baffles me that trained, qualified counsellors are not a requirement in our schools. That there is no mandatory requirement or ratio. There are recommendations and guidelines but given the seriousness of the need the government and MOE need to rethink their ‘hands off’ approach to mental health and well-being in schools.

You see it all comes down to section 77 of the Education Act which states.

“the principal of a State school shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that … students get good guidance and counselling”

It does not say how this will be delivered or provided. And many schools under financial constraints deem non-teaching staff too costly. So while some schools have trained counsellors, they might be split between multiple roles.  Many schools have no trained counsellors. I’d like to see the government take the lead for once instead of hiding behind notions of self-governance. Young people deserve better than ‘good guidance and counselling’. But I’m still not satisfied.

As someone working on the front line I have a privileged access to what pushes young people to the edge and to consider the option of being ‘out’ of existence. While I addressed many of these in a previous blog I want to mention something of the chronic despair I am noticing – regardless of individual circumstances such as bullying, abuse, struggles with identity, connection, emotional distress. I think it speaks to a generation who are very aware of social, political, environmental and economic circumstances.

Some young people are looking at a world in crisis and going WTF? They cannot just find their way in the world as they go – they are expected to have it all sorted out by the time they are 15-16, to make all the right choices at the right times. They are saturated with the problems of the world and told they are the hope for the future. FFS society is holding a gun to their heads and telling them to enjoy the thrill! Some young people recognise how sick the system is that perpetuates the cycle – the monetary system, the neo-liberal capitalist drive to consume at all costs. The systems of fear and division and they are like ‘I’m out’. Suicide is not just about individuals – it is about creating the conditions on which staying alive is worth it!

To me this is the greatest challenge facing society – to look at suicide as more than an individual choice, but a about a systemic failure to create a world worth being in, a world where young people say ‘I’m in’.