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Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand Runanga Whakapiki Ake i te Hauora o Aotearoa
Mental health, News

The Health Promotion Forum is encouraging New Zealanders to participate in Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) which started yesterday (September 23).

Explore your Way to Wellbeing – Whāia te ara hauora, Whitiora is the theme for the week during which more than 6000 people from workplaces, kura, schools and community groups across the country have registered to participate in activities to boost their mental wellbeing.

Mental Health Foundation (MHF) chief executive, Shaun Robinson says MHAW is a time to take notice of our mental wellbeing and recognise that it’s a taonga/treasure that needs to be nurtured.

“Exploring your way to wellbeing means taking the time to notice the simple experiences, actions, relationships and surroundings that make you feel good every day, and prioritise them more often,” Mr Robinson says.

“We know one in five of us will experience some mental distress each year. Most of these people will recover and live well with the right support. Awareness of the importance of looking after our mental wellbeing has never been higher, and this week gives us the opportunity to put that awareness into action, with the chance to engage in various activities that work best for you.”

Daily activities for MHAW are based on Te Whare Tapa Whā, a model developed by Māori health advocate and researcher Sir Mason Durie, which describes health as a wharenui/meeting house with four walls. These walls represent taha wairua/spiritual wellbeing; taha hinengaro/mental and emotional wellbeing; taha tinana/physical wellbeing; and taha whānau/family and social wellbeing. Our connection to the whenua/land forms the foundation.

The five themes will give everyone a chance to engage in different activities each day and find out which things uplift their wellbeing.

“With spring here, there are plenty of opportunity to get out and about with your whānau and work colleagues,” Mr Robinson adds.

Click here to learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week.

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Mental health

The Wellbeing Budget announcements indicate that the Government is starting to take mental health seriously, says Zoe Hawke, Mental Health Foundation manager of the Policy and Advocacy and Community Engagement, Health Promotion team.

Zoe Hawke

Ms Hawke who is the Chair of the Health Promotion Forum says the creation of a $1.9 billion mental health package and the Health Minister’s acknowledgement that more funding will be needed over multiple years are evidence of the Government’s commitment.

She refers to significant points made by the Government in the Budget as overall a promising start in addressing mental wellbeing and the number of deaths from suicide, but adds that much more will be needed to turn things around.

“The Budget did try to acknowledge the significance of the suicide prevention issues for Māori, as well as those of Pasifika and Rainbow communities (more could have been done in these areas, and many people will continue to advocate for more, including myself).

“I will also be keeping my eye on the resources for schools pledge, and whether they  also go to kura kaupapa, kohanga and wharekura to ensure equity of outcomes.  Additionally I hope to see that the ongoing development of the workforce includes a well-resourced cultural responsiveness training component,” says Ms Hawke.    

“Fingers crossed we see a continued follow through in future budget commitments to address inequalities that have persisted for way too many years, and which cannot and will not be solved through one budget alone.”  

Ms Hawke says the Wellbeing Budget provides some more context to the Government’s response to He Ara Oranga (the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction), which was released the day before budget announcements.

“In their response to He Ara Oranga the Government accepted in principle, or agreed to further consideration of 38 of the 40 recommendations of the Inquiry Panel.  However many had concerns that the detail was missing on what this would look like. The Wellbeing Budget that followed gave some reassurances  to the mental health sector, and now our work begins on ensuring the implementation of the 38 recommendations and associated funding streams is done effectively.”

Significant points made by the Government in the Wellbeing Budget include:

  • Funding the establishment of a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission provides leadership to hold the government accountable for on-going investment and progress.
  • The Wellbeing Budget shows the start of a commitment to tackle key social determinants of mental health such as housing, child poverty, and family and sexual violence.
  • Acknowledgement of the considerable mental health inequities Māori face. Commitment to address this through allowing a flexible approach to service design and delivery. Iwi based and other Kaupapa Māori services are acknowledged and their development is supported in the plans for major new services for early support for people with mild to moderate needs.
  • Funding of up to eight programmes designed to strengthen personal identity and connection to the community and will also scale up successful kaupapa Māori initiatives
  • On-going development of the mental health workforce
  • Acknowledgment that one size does not fit all and the importance of co-design of services with local communities, people with lived experience of mental distress and the wider mental health sector.
  • Investment of $40 million into suicide prevention.
  • Support for resources to be made available to teachers to promote mental resilience in primary and intermediate schools.
  • Four free sessions of counselling for people bereaved by suicide
  • Acknowledgement that media guidelines needs to be supported (this is important because the evidence is clear that the way we kōrero about suicide in the media can contribute to further harm in our communities).
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