The aim and purpose of my speech is to educate you all, about the extreme pressures on teenagers today and the consequences that these factors have, specifically on the youth of New Zealand, but also the wider world. I believe that this topic is relevant and extremely important to address in order to improve the mental well being of youth in our country. My aim is to outline methods that will help us accept adolescents for who they are and support them in their path to discovering their personal identity.
I ask you to ponder this statistic.. 365 males and 143 females, a total of 508 people. That is the amount of individuals who committed suicide in New Zealand in 2013. Do you believe that this is okay? A large majority of these individual were youths, aged between 15 and 24…. In the same year, there were 7267 intentional self-harm hospitalisations with 2866 of these cases being youth with these being only the reported cases of self-harm. The causes of these hospitalisations, self-harm and suicides are not stated, however I can be fairly certain of some of the major factors that may have contributed to these outcomes. Parental pressures, expectations that peers have on one another, demand to follow certain trends, obligation to look and act a certain way, bullying about sexuality, appearance, religion or wealth and also the intense hold that social media and celebrities have over us, making us believe that we must follow a certain path to ‘fit in’. All of these factors, force us away from a path of individuality and hinder the discovery of our own identity; teenagers especially. Now you may ask me is this true? I am going to answer confidently and say yes, because personally I have experienced many of these pressures and more than once it has pushed me to the edge and into a very negative mindset. Therefore I do not believe that the severity of the pressures placed upon the current generation is fair.
So what if a teen doesn’t want to follow the traditional path of going to university and getting a degree? If they wish to pursue a job instead, take a gap year, travel the world.. Simply enjoy life.. Let them. It is more important to be happy than to have a certificate that symbolises three or more years of misery in a place you never wanted to go to in the first place. In order for a student to merely get University Entrance, they must gain 10 literacy credits at Level 2 or above, 10 numeracy credits at Level 1 and 14 credits in three university approved subjects at Level 3. However, if an individual wishes to follow a path in Health Sciences or Engineering, the prerequisites are phenomenal; Excellence endorsements are your best shot at getting into some of these courses and the stress that students are put under to achieve these requirements, is overwhelming even for the most academic individual. This doesn’t include the fact that many have sport commitments and the ever looming predicament of how they’re going to pay for their tertiary education. So for somebody that doesn’t want to go to university in the first place, the pressure of these things can be overbearing and frankly terrifying. If a teenager doesn’t think a university experience is really their thing and that they would rather jump straight into the workforce, let them do that if they have the means to do so. These people may have an experienced set of practical skills readily suited for the workforce or already have a job opportunity. This does not make them a liability for the system, it makes them potentially an asset to the economy.
Acceptance of sexuality is a major issue in New Zealand and around the world today. However it shouldn’t be… Your sexuality doesn’t change who you are on the inside. You are still the same person, just because somebody has a different belief or view about sexual preferences doesn’t mean they warrant your judgement. Whether you are gay, lesbian, asexual or transgender we are all the same and the discrimination on different sexualities needs to stop… right here and right now starting with all of you. This pressure of expectation pushes people into being an individual who they are not and makes them believe that they are wrong to be different. 55% of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students during 2013 in the United States, felt unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation and 74% of the LGBT community were verbally harassed at school due to the knowledge of their sexuality. I know that we can not stop these judgements in an instant but if every one of you in this room makes an effort to accept people as they are, you could make many individual’s lives much more comfortable and make them feel more widely accepted.
So.. how do we fix all of these issues? First and foremost, the easiest and most effective method to restore the confidence within the people who need it most, is to simply stop judging. Stop pressuring them into things they do not want, whether it be a job pathway, how they look or act, or their sexual orientation. No matter what a person believes in… We are all human, we are all one, and we all deserve to be treated fairly and equally. Talk to people about their feelings and true aspirations. Get to know what an individual really wants. Nobody should ever feel like an outcast, a person that is unaccepted within society, a person who feels alone in a community. By no means should a family have to suffer the loss of a loved one because they felt that they didn’t feel accepted or couldn’t cope in this world. Happiness should be the number one priority in life, not how you look, how you act and certainly not how you see others.