29 September 2021

Invercargill teen pitches how to help mental health for Japanese youth

An Invercargill teen’s business idea to help improve the mental health of Japanese youth is the New Zealand winner at the inaugural BizVenture Programme

Southland Girls’ High School pupil Kaiah Sherriff, 17, along with four other Kiwi high schoolers won with their business concept of a sustainable clothing brand called 大丈夫, which means “It’s OK” in English.

The team had to form a business pitch related to one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through a Japanese context, and they chose “Good Health and Wellbeing”.

“From our research we found … mental health is like a real taboo subject in Japan. So it was, how can we create awareness about it by creating a new age movement,” she said.

It was aimed at promoting wellbeing to combat the stereotypes of mental health in Japan and striving to change behaviours and perceptions around talking about one’s struggles, Sherriff said.

Education New Zealand director of education for Japan Misa Kitaoka was one of the judges for the competition.

“It is important to provide services for counselling and mental health and emotional health, but the winning team worked on changing the stigma for the … notion that seeking counselling is something to hide by bringing that together with fashion, which is at the core of teenagers’ interests especially in Japan,” Kitaoka said.

BizVenture is a pilot initiative led by Education New Zealand and its Japanese partners to give Kiwi and Japanese students a first-hand experience conceiving business solutions that address UN sustainable goals.

Published by Stuff.co.nz – 29 September.