Live for Tomorrow – when catalytic philanthropy meets social media


Key Issue: Health & Wellbeing

Youth suicide continues to blight communities all over New Zealand. It is an issue Auckland business owners Mike and Jen Ballantyne, whose business success is enabled by the internet, wanted to impact. Through the Auckland Communities Foundation the couple was introduced to youth organisation Zeal and a project using the power of social media to bring attention to youth suicide and the struggle and resiliency of young kiwis.

Live for Tomorrow was initially a music video project by collective of youth workers, young people, popular kiwi artist Pieter T and award-winning director Chris Graham.  It had achieved 100,000 views online, sparking some media attention, and drawing attention to a Facebook page that grew a following of just over one thousand.

The support delivered by the ensuing philanthropic investment of the Ballantynes enabled the team to expand its vision and develop innovative new ways to reach young people struggling with mental health, identity, bullying, alcohol use, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

Eighteen months on, Live For Tomorrow has true momentum, with a dedicated team of youth workers, creatives, and young people passionate about reaching young people with messages of hope where they spend the majority of their time: online and in school.

The now much broader project still uses social media channels to reach its audience, producing documentaries, digital devices, memes, photo sharing campaigns, social experiments, and of course music videos. It is active on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram and has amassed 13,000 social media followers, counted 616,792 online video views and 120,000 facebook engagements. It has achieved around 150,000 website visits and the same number of photos posted and tagged #HandOverHeart in support of World Suicide Prevention Day 2014, making it among the top two framers of online conversation for World Suicide Prevention Day worldwide.

Responses by young people on social media ranged from, “I feel better now,” to “Maybe if we did this everyone’s battle would be a bit less hard,” and “can I just say, every single one of your posts on Instagram lifts me up little by little…I have been having a fairly rough time but I have been feeling so much better thank you.”

Jen Ballantyne says Zeal has been an amazing organisation to work with, “with a big heart.”  She says it is evident that they are 100 percent committed to providing young people help, hope and inspiration. “Mike and I feel privileged to be able to support such an innovative, passionate and effective organisation.

“Their small group of talented youth workers are creative communicators with relevant experience and insight in to how to really make a difference,” she says.

Mike Ballantyne says Zeal understands how to reach young people and communicate in a way that resonates with them. “Zeal is the antithesis of a corporate trying to understand an audience they’re disconnected from.

“They’re reaching kids through music and celebrity messages; they’re talking their language and meeting them in the media they enjoy. The level of credibility and success they have with troubled youth reflects that.”


Youth suicide is the most extreme indicator of negative well-being and has implications for families, schooling, peer culture, health, work and other community contexts.[1]

Statistics show high rates of depressive thoughts among young New Zealanders (38% female, 23% male), cyber bullying (9%), suicidal ideation (21% female, 10% male), binge drinking (23%) and self-harm (29% female, 18% male) amongst New Zealand young people.[2]

Young people at risk of self-harm or suicide are often online for longer periods than other teenagers[3]

According to data collected between 2002 and 2004, New Zealand had the second highest male youth suicide rate and the third highest female youth suicide rate out of 14 developed countries.[4]

Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally in 2012.[5]

Almost every New Zealander under 40 is online[6], 4 out of 5 of those spend an hour or more online at home every day [7]

Research indicates that suicide is associated with depression, hopelessness, adjustment difficulty and severe stresses or life crises, including bullying, intimidation or relationship break-ups.[8]

The Youth ’07 publication on health and wellbeing of the secondary school students undertaken by The University of Auckland reported that same/both-sex-attracted students were more likely to report serious thoughts about attempting suicide (39%) compared to opposite-sex-attracted students (13%) (Rossen et al., 2009).  It also showed that one fifth of same/both-sex-attracted students attempted suicide in contrast to 4% of opposite-sex-attracted students.[9]

[1] Education Counts website.

[2] Clark et al., 2013

[3] A 2013 global review of 14 studies on internet use and young people (Daine et al., 2013).

[4] Ministry of Youth Development website

[5] World Health Organisation website.

[6] World Internet Project NZ Report 2013

[7] Gibson et al., 2013

[8] Education Counts website.

[9] Education Counts website.


For more donor case studies, see Inspiring Giving part 1 & part 2.