In 2013 and 2014, the Ministry of Education, New Zealand successfully implemented My FRIENDS Youth in 26 schools across the country as part of the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project reaching 2,739 students in Year 9 as part of the health and physical education curriculum,

A final evaluation report of My FRIENDS Youth was conducted by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) in partnership with Associate Professor Roseanna Bourke from Victoria University of Wellington. Quantitative and qualitative data from the 26 schools included [email protected] surveys completed by over 2,000 students before and after My FRIENDS Youth, a survey of 31 teachers, and case study interviews with 17 staff and 160 students at five diverse secondary schools.

The evaluation indicated that My FRIENDS Youth was well received and generated positive outcomes for both students and teachers. One of the more empowering aspects of My FRIENDS Youth was learning that students could change their thoughts, and in doing so, influence their actions and general wellbeing.

We learnt that everyone uses different strategies to relax; we learnt how to reduce stress like before a test or something. I’ve got new ways of coping with people I don’t like very much. (Year 9 student)

The majority of students thought My FRIENDS Youth was worth doing.

The majority of students in the case study schools highly rated their My FRIENDS Youth experience. When 160 students were asked to rate My FRIENDS Youth on a 1–5 scale (5 being the most positive), the average rating was 4. This positive response was confirmed by the survey data, when 62 percent of students either agreed or strongly agreed that My FRIENDS Youth was worth doing.

The majority of students reported using the strategies they learned.

Most teachers (78%) reported that students were more aware of their feelings as a result of My FRIENDS Youth. Most also believed that the students got to know each other better (62%), and that it fostered a sense of community (62%). Although students were able to explain how they learned strategies, they did report that it was harder to use these strategies in “real life”.

I find it quicker to get to sleep at nights. By just focusing on one thing—that worked. (Year 9 student)

The majority of students thought what they learnt would be useful in the future.

Although just over half of the students reported using strategies from My FRIENDS Youth sessions, more students (nearly 70%) either agreed or strongly agreed that what they learnt from My FRIENDS Youth would be useful in the future.

It does change you. As a person. Cliché but it does. It explains to you, different things. (Year 9 student)

Learning to act sportsmanlike and not challenging others … learning to appreciate things more … It [plastic pancake activity] helped you to think from other people’s point of view and think about others at the same time as yourself … learning the word ‘empathy’ really helped me to understand how other people feel and being in their shoes. (Year 10 student)


My FRIENDS Youth was developed to support adolescents aged 12 – 15 years to increase their resilience by developing knowledge, strategies and skills to cope with difficult and challenging times in their lives based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) principles. My FRIENDS Youth does not rely on identifying or pathologising adolescents participating in the program as having mental health issues. Rather, it recognises that all young people have times when they feel low or anxious, and therefore adolescents would gain some benefits.


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MacDonald, J., Bourke, R., Berg, M., & Burgon, J. (2016). “It’s, like, trying to make us better people” My FRIENDS Youth final evaluation report. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Available on the Ministry of Education’s website Education Counts: or email [email protected].