Student's mental health plan approved by Government

The loss of five friends to suicide has prompted one student to develop a programme to save the lives of his peers.

Now he's not only managed to get the Government on board to fund it - he's brought about a reconciliation between mental health campaigner Mike King and the Minister of Health.

Four years ago, Ezekiel Raui was sitting in a school hall listening to Mr King's first ever mental health seminar. Having lost five friends in recent months, it prompted him to come up with a plan of his own.

"I liaised and talked with a lot of my peers and we came up with, well, we're more comfortable talking to each other as opposed to talking to our counsellors, to our teachers [and] to our parents."

He drew up that plan on one and a half pages of A4 refill paper. Now, after four years of hard graft, it's this: The Tu Kotahi programme, sitting in Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman's office, signed off to be piloted in four schools across the country.

New Zealand has the developed world's worst teen suicide rate. Tu Kotahi trains teens to offer mental health support to their peers.

Mike King is relieved to see it going ahead

"It says to me that these five young deaths weren't senseless... that something good is coming out of this, something positive so to those families... I just have nothing but love for them."

But something else positive may have come from it. Mr King quit the Government's mental health panel, but is now partly back on side.

"Does this mean we're going to be in a cuddling contest? I don't think so, but you know I've got to give credit where credit's due - so thanks."

And for the next generation there's a challenge for everyone working in mental health.

"Target zero - so zero suicides throughout the country in any given year," Mr Raui says. "And if we can't achieve that then we're not really doing our job."

Tu Kotahi will be run in four very different parts of the country for a year to get an idea of how it works and what it will cost.

King and Raui would like to eventually see it across all schools, but the government is saying: watch this space.