1 Jun 2023

Scholarship-winning teen wants to help repair NZ's mental health system

From First Up, 5:35 am on 1 June 2023

The Wellington teenager awarded a $25,000 education scholarship hopes to improve the broken mental health system which failed his father.

Johnny Bentley-Cribb was just 11 years old when his father Mario Cribb died in Wellington Hospital's mental health unit.

Wellington high school student and mental health advocate Johnny Bentley-Cribb has been awarded a $25,000 education scholarship

Wellington high school student and mental health advocate Johnny Bentley-Cribb has been awarded a $25,000 education scholarship Photo: Supplied

Aotearoa's mental health and justice systems both contributed to the traumatic death of his dad in 2017, says Johnny, a student at St Patrick's College Silverstream in Upper Hutt.

The event has not only "defined his journey", but it's also a big part of Johnny's motivation to study at an Ivy League university.

He decided to give the prestigious Te Ara a Kupe Beaton Scholarship a shot after hearing that past recipient Samuel Taylor (​​Ngāti Maru) had gotten into Harvard University.

Johnny guesses that he won by asking a "very direct" question of New Zealand education entrepreneur Jamie Beaton in his interview.

Although it was "nerve-wracking", Johnny asked Jamie at the end how to boost his chances of getting into an Ivy League college in the future.

"When you do these scholarship interviews the goal is to be memorable, and I think that question is what made me memorable and ultimately contributed to me winning in the end."

Johnny says he's seen New Zealand's mental health services fail many people, especially Māori and Pasifika, and "serious fundamental change" needs to occur.

"I can either sit with this [experience] for ten years trying to work out what it means or I can take it as it is and try and create positive change from that, and try and make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else in the future."

Johnny is one of five Māori high school students to win the prize, alongside Anika Lomax, Aidan Hodgson, Lena Ormsby and Tai Renner.​ With his scholarship money, Johnny hopes to attend Boston Cambridge University, Yale University or Columbia University.

Johnny Bentley-Cribb and his father Mario Cribb

Johnny Bentley-Cribb and his father Mario Cribb Photo: Supplied

Where to get help:

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