According to New Zealand’s Mental Health Foundation one in five New Zealanders experience a mental illness and/or addiction each year. This month the Foundation brings that statistic to light for Mental Health Awareness Week – September 26 to October 2, 2022. We chatted with Tetra Tech Coffey NZ HSEQ Advisor Zoë Crook about how reconnecting with people and places can help with mental wellbeing.
Kia ora Zoë! Last week you and the team kicked off Mental Health Awareness Week. What was your focus for the team?
My focus for the week was to share some simple ideas with the team along with using some more te reo as a follow on from Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week). This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) was all about reconnection. The past couple of years have been tough and it’s easy to feel disconnected from the people and places that are important to us. So, we were encouraging our teams to contact with someone they had lost contact with, visiting a place that’s special to them or just getting outside in nature – hei pikinga waiora.
How did you approach this with the team?
We approached the week by sharing a daily focus which prompted our people to think. But this is something that I would encourage people to adopt into their daily routine. When people are starting out their day, exercising or reflecting at the end of a day – I think that anyone can do these at any time – not just during Mental Health Awareness Week. Any time is great opportunity to tune into our mental health and wellbeing, it’s important we keep up the kōrero beyond the week itself.
Rāhina (Monday) – Reconnect with yourself
Connecting with yourself is a skill. To start the week, begin by taking a moment to check in with yourself, acknowledge how you’re feeling and how the last few years of turbulence affected you and your connection with others and the world around you. This is a good time to think about the people you have lost contact with who you might want to reach out to, or the special places you haven’t visited in a while, and set some whāinga/goals for the week ahead.
At the end of the week, you can reflect on how you felt at the start and how reconnecting with the people and places that are special to you has lifted you up.
Rātu (Tuesday) – Reconnect with a friend or loved one
We know life can get busy, but feeling connected to the people that are important to us can make a big difference to our mental health. Connection brings purpose and belonging to our lives and makes us feel happier and more secure. Tuesday is about reconnecting with the people in our lives – it could be someone special who you have lost touch with or just wish you caught up with more often.
Rāapa (Wednesday) – Reconnect with a special place
The places and spaces we spend our time in have a huge impact on how we feel. Most of us have places we can go that calm, inspire or uplift us. Today, make time to go to a place that is special to you and take notice of how you feel when you are there. For some of us, the special place that comes to mind might be out of reach – perhaps it’s overseas, or too far away to get to. Even if we can’t get there right now, there are ways that we can reconnect with the places that lift us up. Close your eyes and imagine you’re there, look at photos or describe it to someone.
Rāpare (Thursday) – Reconnect with your community
Thursday is about reconnecting with your hapori whānui/wider community. It’s the perfect time to sign up to be a volunteer or join a local community group, but it could also be as simple as making the effort to reconnect with the people you interact with every day. Thursday is all about savouring the little hononga/connections that make us human.
Rāmere (Friday) – Reconnect with nature
To round out the week, why not reconnect with the beautiful taonga that is te taiao/the natural environment. Studies show exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally, but it also contributes to our physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. All the more reason to spend at least a small moment today outside – breathing in some fresh air and noticing the world around you.
The below infographic is a great reminder of the little things we can do every day to stay well ????
For the end of the week
Now that it’s the end of the week, why not take some time to reflect on how this week’s moments of reconnection have made an impact. What have you noticed? What felt good? What do you want to take with you or continue to do in the weeks and months ahead? Is there someone else you want to reconnect with? A special place you want to make plans to visit?
What else can people to do to support mental wellbeing?
One of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves and others is Kei te pēhea koe? | How are you? The little, everyday conversations we have are surprisingly important – and they make a big difference to our mental health – so we want everyone to take notice of the connections that makes you feel good and do it more often!
For some people, this week might bring up some sadness or distress. If you’ve had a kōrero with someone and you think they need further tautoko | support, or if you’re worried about yourself, it’s okay, there is help available – no one should go through a tough time alone.
The best first point of contact is to visit your GP or offer to go to a GP with your friend or whānau member. They can help assess what further support might be needed. You can also contact our Employee Assistance Program anytime for free and confidential short-term counselling services as well as access to a digital platform that offers work-life programs and confidential self-assessments. There are links to other features including wellbeing blogs, podcasts, videos and meditations.
Below is a list of some of the services available in Aotearoa that offer support, information and help. All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless otherwise specified.
- If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 111.
- Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
- Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
- Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat
- Remember it’s okay to get support for yourself when you’re supporting someone you care about. Yellow Brick Road provides support for the loved ones of people experiencing mental distress/illness throughout Aotearoa: yellowbrickroad.org.nz