Implementing the MY FRIENDS Youth programme in a New Zealand secondary school: The experiences of staff and Year 9 students
Increasing rates of young people’s anxiety and depression is a concern for New Zealand secondary schools and this results in issues for students such as decreased wellbeing and school attendance, health difficulties and social isolation. In 2013 the Ministry of Education introduced a pilot of the MY FRIENDS Youth Resilience programme into secondary schools for students in Year 9. This thesis reports on the experiences of teachers and students of the MY FRIENDS Youth programme in one secondary school context. This programme is based on cognitive behavioural therapy principles and has been developed to support young people build their understanding and skills in resilience to enhance their wellbeing. The programme has been implemented and evaluated with young people in a number of countries. Research has shown it to have beneficial effects in promoting emotional resilience and in reducing anxiety and depression in students. The findings of this school case study are explored, and the impact of the programme for the students and their school community is presented. A case study methodological approach was used that enabled the collection of rich data to explore the deep meaning from teachers and students. This involved an in-depth instrumental case study within one secondary school involving teachers, students, the counsellor, the principal and students’ parents. Observations, document analysis and interviews took place to build a comprehensive understanding of how teachers and students learned through the programme. Findings suggest the students see the MY FRIENDS Youth Resilience programme as a positive, useful programme that has enabled them to learn various strategies to deal with challenging scenarios in their life. The findings also address barriers to implementation and possible implications for the future. Several suggestions for the programme are discussed along with certain adaptations of the programme to make it more relevant to the New Zealand context.