Launch of the Social Media Innovations Fund

  • Paula Bennett
Social Development

E nga mana, e nga reo, e te iwi o te motu, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

Thank you Prime Minister for your introduction, and thank you also to Peter Clare and Westpac for hosting this event.

It’s great to see you all here, especially those from the Phobic Trust, Youthline, and ZEAL, whose innovative social media projects I’ll be talking about tonight.

It’s also great to see people here from organisations working with young people day in, day out. Thank you for coming.

I’m excited by the Social Media Innovations Fund.

Social media is going to play a huge part in improving youth mental health.

The landscape young people live, talk, and socialise in has changed.

In fact, it’s constantly changing. I’ll admit, I sometimes find it hard to keep up.

Like a few of you, I grew up thinking going viral meant a bad cold, and a keyboard was what Stevie Wonder played.

Once we went out the front door, that was it - if our mates didn’t show up we had to wander around until we found them or go home again.

Now wherever we are, home, school, work, a party, we are in touch with others.

We can access the internet 24/7, and we’re constantly connecting, sharing, and interacting with others online.

The benefits for young people have been huge. They can talk to people from all over the world, instantly.

Teenagers in rural areas no longer face the isolation they used to.

And young people with interests or beliefs that would have seen them shunned a few years ago can find others just like them through online communities.

But it’s not all good. Young people now live online, and privacy has a completely different meaning.

They face increased social pressure in the public arena, and we’ve seen how bullies use social media as another tool to hurt and embarrass others.

Despite this, we know there’s no point trying to connect with young people like we did in the past.

Young people don’t want to be talked to; they want to be spoken with. We need to use their language, not ours. We need to become citizens in their world.

And that world is huge. If Facebook was a country it would be the third biggest on earth. 10 years ago it was smaller than Auckland.

How can we expect young people to open up to us and ask for help if we aren’t speaking their language?

This is why we’ve decided to set up the Social Media Innovation Fund.

We are going to use social media to make sure young people get the support they need to improve their emotional wellbeing.

With a subject as serious as youth mental health, we need to prove to young people we know what we’re talking about.

The Fund will help mental health services develop social media initiatives that will reach young people more effectively.

I’d like to tell you about some of the projects that we’re already supporting as part of this initiative.

One I’m really excited about is the Phobic Trust, which has partnered with VADR and come up with the Mood Diary mobile app.

Together they have created an app that will allow young people to input and monitor their mood and anxiety levels daily.

It also enables them to get instant round-the-clock support if and when they need it.

The app can link with platforms such as Facebook and YouTube and will automatically alert the user if what they’re entering into their journal indicates they need to seek help.

Of course many young people don’t have smart phones – and most that do still use texting to keep in touch with their friends.

Youthline has long been a pioneer in this space. Their interactive text counselling service, first launched in 2004, continues to grow in popularity.

With our support, they are now planning to pilot a more intensive version of this service, which also draws upon their successful Inspire Me text campaign.

The service has the potential to then be rolled out across New Zealand. Since it’s estimated there are more cellphones in the world than toothbrushes, it’s clear texting is one of the most effective ways these services can connect with young people.

ZEAL is another organisation doing great things in this space.

Binge drinking is a big problem in New Zealand. It usually starts in teenage years, increasing the risk of depression, anxiety and suicide for young people.

We’re going to support ZEAL Voice to build on the success of its Don’t Drown Your Dream documentary with a 30-day ‘dream challenge’ delivered across a range of social media sites.

They’re aiming for 500 young people to participate by the end of 2013. 500 people active on social media have the potential to reach 150,000 peers – this is a huge number and a great target to aim for.

The challenge will be underpinned by a Don’t Drown Your Dream campaign delivered through high schools in partnership with the Attitude programme.

These are just some of the existing social media projects that we’re helping to move to the next level. And we’ll all be watching their progress with interest.

But where to next? How do we generate the next big idea to support youth mental health?

We know that doing what we’ve done in the past won’t work.

To come up with genuinely innovative solutions, we need to support projects in innovative ways.

We need to draw on the expertise of mental health and youth experts, of developers and social entrepreneurs like yourselves.

And we need develop tools that young people are attracted to. This means working directly with them to come up with the answers.

So from now on, we’re doing this differently.

In April we’re holding a series of weekends around the country where young people will team up with mental health experts, and web developers to brainstorm ideas.

The best ideas will be supported and mentored to make them a reality.

This is new ground for us and to make it happen, we know we can’t do it alone.

We’ve asked Auckland entrepreneur Jason Armishaw to come on board, because we know that he has the experience and connections to make this project a success.

Many of you will already know that Jason was named one of the top 25 influencers by Unlimited magazine last year, for his work in bringing Start Up Weekends to New Zealand.

He’s helped us identify real opportunities to ensure this project will genuinely contribute to better mental health for many future generations of young New Zealanders.

And that’s why we’ve asked you all here tonight. Because, like Jason, you are the experts in your field.

We want you to be part of this totally new approach.

And we need your ideas, and your support to help improve youth mental health and wellbeing in New Zealand.

And by support, we’re not just talking about funding.

More important to us is your willingness to contribute your time and knowledge.

To actually sit down with our young people and listen to their ideas.

We all have a stake in supporting young people to develop into happy capable adults – after all, they are New Zealand’s future.

I’ll now hand over to Jason who will be talking about the next stage of this initiative in more detail.

Thanks in advance for your support.