Zoe Palmer is looking for people to interview for a new mental health book. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Vic Brewbar Banter with Zoe Palmer


Every few weeks we sit down with someone interesting doing something interesting. This week we meet Zoe Palmer who has had a huge year being a thorn in the side of the district health board. Early last year she challenged the health board’s decision to change a youth mental health service. Zoe’s petition gained thousands of signatures which she took to Parliament. Now she is looking to the next chapter.

What happened after you presented the petition to Parliament?

Well, the DHB decided to ignore it but now everything they do is under scrutiny and really it was just great to get people talking about mental health. And also getting young people interested in how decision-making works at the local and central government level.

Why did you put your hand up to become the figurehead for the petition?

I like people. I love people. I’ve got this weird thing that if I see something wrong, I want to try and help and fix it for other people. I know that sound a bit lame.

Not at all. Did it turn out as you expected?

I never quite predicted exactly how it was going to turn out. It all wrapped up in October. The DHB did take notice. So that was really positive.

What are you doing now?

Well, I totally failed high school and didn’t graduate but spent the summer snorkelling and mountain biking and riding my horse. I’m now working as an employment consultant – helping people with disabilities or health barriers to find work. It’s really cool. I love it.

But you have got another mental health project on the go?

I initially wanted to write a book with young people telling their own stories, but I thought that everyone seems to be doing something like that. So, I thought ‘why not take it one step further and tell the stories of carers and whanau of people living with mental illness’. I think it’s really easy to feel alone when you are helping people with mental illness. Having a resource like that for someone like my mum or someone else’s mum would be really welcome, I think.

So, what’s the next step?

It’s finding interviewees. I have people from my own circles, but I would love to find people outside of that and help be the medium to tell their stories.

What’s the most surprising thing that happened this year?

I won a Girl Boss award which was pretty cool. All I did was annoy the Government for a year and I was around all these young women who had done these amazing things. That was really surprising.

If you want to contact Zoe about her project, email [email protected]