This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and this month the Mental Health & Addiction Inquiry is due to report to the Minister of Health. (Was due …now delayed for a further month)

It has been another challenging year for the strained mental health sector, which waits with great anticipation for the Government’s response to the long-lobbied-for Inquiry.

Meanwhile, Mental Health Awareness Week – with its theme this year of ‘Let nature in’ –is a time to take a deep breath and focus on strengthening your own personal wellbeing.

Health Central asked some health leaders and politicians to share how they use the Five Ways to Wellbeing (as outlined on the Mental Health Foundation website) and let nature in to support their own mental health and wellbeing. See their responses below:

Professor Ron Paterson, Chair, Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry

Professor Ron Paterson (Chair Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry)

Connect: I’ve kept in regular touch with my close friends, who support and encourage me when the going gets tough. And I’ve formed strong bonds with all the panel members – we’ve become very close and sustained each other along the way. We’ve prayed and sung together, and that’s lifted our spirits.

Give: I’ve tried to give my time and attention to the many people who’ve wanted to meet me and be part of the Inquiry. Sometimes I find this one hard, when I’d rather hide away with a good book!

Take Notice: One of the special things about our consultation was visiting beautiful marae and seeing different parts of Aotearoa. I found time to walk into Welcome Flat Hut on the Copland river in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, and soak in the hot pools. I always take notice of nature.

Be Active: This is easy for me and a regular part of my life. It’s hard when you’re travelling, but every weekend I return to our coastal home southeast of Auckland and find time for a couple of long, slow runs through the bush and by the sea.

Keep Learning: As a university teacher, I love to keep learning. The whole Inquiry has been one long lesson for me. I’ve had lots of new experiences and learnt so much about mental health and addictions from tangata whai ora, workers and my Inquiry colleagues.

Dr David Clark, Minister of Health

Health Minister David Clark

Connect: One of my favourite ways to connect with friends is to organise a group for an early morning run or bike ride.

Give: Oversight of New Zealand’s health services is a tough demanding job, but it’s a great pleasure and privilege to get out of the Beehive and travel around the country to meet and speak with those working in health services and receiving care.

Take Notice: Nothing gives me more joy than spending time with loved ones, particularly now that as a Minister there are so many demands for my time.

Be Active: As a former competitive cyclist and ironman, being active comes naturally to me. I exercise when I can fit it in, and a short run is a great way to clear my head, but it can also be something as simple and basic as mowing the lawns.

Keep Learning: I’m lucky that my job means I’m frequently meeting with and learning from different individuals and groups who are incredibly knowledgeable and experienced across a wide range of subjects. On any given day, I’m likely to speak with clinicians, scientists, caregivers and financial managers.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General, Ministry of Health

Ashley Bloomfield

There are three simple words which often mean the world of difference in a stressful working environment – are you okay?

It’s a question I like to ask staff here at the Ministry on a daily basis and it’s a question I strongly encourage others to ask of their colleagues. It’s a simple way to connect with others and let them know you care.

I like to keep the door to my office open as often as I can, to encourage staff with any questions or concerns to pop their head through the door to talk to me. My door is open if people just want a chat too.

Spending time regularly with family is essential – including taking holidays together. We usually include outdoor activities – tramping, biking, skiing and lots of walks.I enjoy a regular run around the hilly suburbs of Wellington with a group of friends each Saturday – a great chance for physical activity and connecting with friends.I also bike, as part of my commute, to and from our Molesworth Street offices, whenever possible.

One of the things we’re trialling this week, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week is 55 minute meetings here at the Ministry– it may seem small, but people can bank those spare 5 minutes to have a breather before getting back to their desk.

Mental Health is one of our priorities in the health sector and Mental Health Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity for everyone to be more aware of their lifestyle, at work and at home, and how it may be affecting their mental health.

One of the best things in my day is spending each night with my family. Just looking at the stars and planets, on a still and cloudless night, is a pleasure. It’s also a great chance to catch up on everyone’s days.

 Matt Doocey, National’s spokesperson for Mental Health

Matt Doocey, National’s spokesperson for mental Health, addressing health professionals, educators and youth workers in Dannevirke. Photograph by Christine McKay.

Connect: I’m enjoying getting out to our smaller communities around New Zealand to talk directly to our people and find out what they need for their wellbeing. I’m also meeting with mental health service providers to see how we can best support the great work they do. That’s why I’m proposing a cross-party mental health group in  Parliament to bring the political parties together to find common ground on mental health issues and develop policy for longer than the three-year parliamentary cycle.

Give: Before becoming an MP, I worked in healthcare, specifically mental health, but always knew I would move into politics as a way of giving back and making a difference in the community. Many of my family worked in and for the community, and growing up I was always reminded that it was about public service.

Take Notice: Living and working in the Waimakariri region with my family, I am constantly seeing our great landscapes – our rivers, coastlines, and mountain ranges – and the excitement of our community events through my children’s eyes.

Be Active: I like to get out with my wife and children as often as I can, whether that be on our new cycle and walking paths or taking the dog for a walk along some of Waimakariri’s untouched coastline.

Keep Learning: As a local MP, I continually learn from the people I meet. I get to meet a range of people – mums and dads, business people, students and grandparents. I learn every day more about the amazing cultures and diversity we have in New Zealand and also how much we have in common. We will all have good and bad mental health over the course of our lives, so we are all in this together.

Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), is on 8–14 October 2018. This year’s theme is ‘Let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing – Mā te taiao, kia whakapakari tōu oranga’.

Where to get help:

If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

Asian Helpline –0800 862 342
Lifeline – 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Youthline – 0800 376 633 or free text 234
Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (for under 18s)
What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18-year-olds 1pm–10pm weekdays and 3pm–10pm weekends)
Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463
Healthline – 0800 611 116


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