all the feels

New Zealand is spending $4 million to help teens deal with breakups

The government's Love Better campaign is the first of its kind

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A woman walks past a heart shaped sculpture during Valentine's Day near Agios Theodoros village, Cyprus February 14, 2023.
Whatever it takes to mend a broken heart
Photo: Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters (Reuters)

New Zealand’s government is devoting millions of dollars to help teenagers heal from breakups.

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has assigned 6.4 million New Zealand dollars ($4 million) to the Love Better campaign, which launched on Mar. 22. The funds, which will be disbursed over three years, will help teens deal with breakups, “developing positive and life-long attitudes to dealing with hurt,” the government’s press release noted.


“We know that break-ups hurt. We want to support our young people to deal with the hurt and know that there is a way through without harming themselves or others,” said Priyanca Radhakrishnan, associate minister for social development and employment. The campaign features teens sharing their real, raw stories with peers who may be experiencing similar issues to provide an “authentic way to inspire others to build their own strength, self-worth, and resilience,” she added.

The campaign sits within the umbrella Te Aorerekura initiative New Zealand announced in December 2021, the country’s first-ever National Strategy for the Elimination of Family Violence and Sexual Violence. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of reported sexual and domestic violence in the developed world.


An experimental, novel approach to heal from breakups

The New Zealand government’s first-of-its-kind approach has been developed after conversations with young people, government officials, and mental health experts.

“Breakups suck,” a promotional video for the campaign, featuring clips of teens talking about deleting their exes on social media and moving on from their past relationships, says. But that’s only one way it’s reaching out to teens. Love Better’s material will eventually be disseminated “through multiple media partners” and using a “broad range of content to suit different styles of media consumption” to make maximum impact, MSD said. This means TikTok videos, Instagram Reels, podcasts, written articles, and more.

The campaign, which urges teens to #OwnTheFeels and reach out for help, is also making the resources to provide help. For instance, youth development organization Youthline has been tapped to provide that help in the form of phone, text and email helplines. Youthline took to Instagram to say its receiving a “small portion” of the government’s Love Better funding.


Quotable: How New Zealand is teaching teens to “Love Better”

“Typically it seems like your only option after a breakup, other than necessarily hating the person or cutting off the person, is not feeling anything in response. So it’s really cool to show that actually, it’s normal to have all these feelings in response to a breakup and these are some ways you can deal with them in a healthy way.” -Jo Madsen, Youthline’s clinical lead


One big number: Young people in New Zealand who’ve experienced bad breakups

68%: Share of 1,200 Kiwis between the ages of 16 to 24 surveyed by MSD who reported having bad experiences, beyond the “normal” hurt of breaking up. Consequences included “self-harm, depression, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, and violence and coercion—including blackmail, jealousy and revenge, possessiveness, and stalking,” the survey found.


One more thing: Training people working on Love Better

Several sensitivity checks have been embedded in the ever-evolving program:

🚩 The concepts and taglines with representatives from the family and sexual violence sectors to identify any red flags.


🧑‍🤝‍🧑 A senior social worker is also assigned to provide one-on-one support for each young person who is engaged to share their story.

⚠ Another youth development organization, Ara Taiohi, is training staff “on best practice principles when working with young people.” Meanwhile, charitable trust RespectEd, which works with schools, workplaces and community groups to educate and create open dialogues about sexual harm, is also training people working on the project on family and sexual violence, and healthy relationships.


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