For a city recovering from a major disaster like the Canterbury earthquakes, all the evidence suggests that simply rebuilding buildings and restarting businesses is not the end of the recovery journey.
The lasting impact of the trauma of the disaster and the long, grinding recovery that follows can have lasting mental health impacts on our people. And this is especially true for our young people.
I’ve spoken to many parents and teachers who tell me of the real mental health impacts the quakes and their aftermath have had on young people in Christchurch, from anxiety to depression to developmental delays.
That’s why I’m so proud of the Government’s Mana Ake programme, which gives every child in Canterbury access to a trained mental health worker through their schools. This policy was actually a personal mission of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and the Government worked closely with the CDHB and their mental health experts in designing its details.
So far, 2030 students have received help individually and a further 2070 students have received help in a group. That’s thousands of young people getting the mental health support they need. I’ve personally met with some of these young people and their families and heard them talk about what a huge difference having access to counselling, and being able to learn coping skills, has made in their lives. One mother told me of the total transformation in her son and how it has helped their whole family.
The success of this programme shows what we can achieve when we take mental health seriously.
We all know the ‘unspoken rules’ for being a man; rules like ‘be the man’, ‘toughen up’ and ‘boys don’t cry’. They are the expectations that boys and young men inherit from society, based on outdated ideas of what a man is, how he acts and how he should express himself. Even if we don’t agree with them, these rules still exist silently in the background for far too many.
White Ribbon’s ‘Challenge the #Unspoken Rules’ campaign is letting us know it’s time for the stereotypes to stop, and tough-looking men (and women) on motorcycles are on a week-long tour promote healthy masculinity.
South Island Ride Leader Ken Mahon says if boys aren’t encouraged to show emotions such as sadness and anger in healthy ways, it can lead to bottling up of emotions, mental health challenges, aggression and violence.
Ken says these #unspoken rules such as ‘boys don’t cry’ have a negative impact on our young men. “It puts real pressure on boys to behave in certain ways. They suppress their emotions and their individuality and this can have a real effect on their mental health. It begins to create unhealthy attitudes that can affect how they treat their partners.”
The South Island Ride is now in its ninth year, having started in 2011. Each year the riders send out a registration of interest to communities and build the ride around those towns that are keen to have them visit and promote their anti-violence messages.
“This is my first year as the Ride Leader so I’m really chuffed about that,” Ken says. “We have a great team of riders with a range of skills. Some are great at talking to students, some can play the guitar and so far they’re all very proficient riders.”
Ken says the key thing is that they are caring people who want to help reduce the terrible rates of violence in our communities. “When 41 percent of a frontline officer’s time is spent dealing with family violence, you know we have a serious problem.
“This is the first year we are talking about the myths that we pass down to our children. The men I’ve talked to all responded to these messages. They’ve all heard these #unspoken rules and experienced the negative impacts that occur when you believe you shouldn’t cry, or that you have to toughen up or be the man.”
Ken says the message is to let both adults and our young men know that being a man is about so much more than being tough. It’s about being kind, empathetic and being confident in who you are, not feeling the pressure to be an outdated stereotype.
The riders attend a range of events each year from marches, community days, school visits, talks at Corrections and this year the riders even get to meet the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall who has a particular interest in family violence.
The South Island Ride is heading to Christchurch on 22 November. For more information and the itinerary, visit www.whiteribbon.org.nz.
New Zealand’s first purpose-built ‘one-stop-shop’ for youth health and wellbeing is one step closer to reality, with finalised plans soon heading to the Christchurch City Council for resource consent.
Youth Hub Trust Chair Dame Sue Bagshaw hopes both the council and local community will recognise the detail, careful thought and collaboration which has underlined the project so far.
“It’s been a year of really hard work to get to this stage,” she says. “Field Studio of Architecture, Novo Group town planners and the wider team have delivered a vision for a fantastic space, to support both youth service providers and the city’s young people in need, who’ll truly benefit from care given in such a therapeutic environment. We hope to be able to create a real sense of community for the site.”
Once built, the Youth Hub on inner-city Salisbury Street will provide medical, mental health, social services, activity spaces, a café and supported transitional accommodation for 23 young people.
Dr Bagshaw says it will deliver a round-the-clock, supervised, holistic environment, delivering much-needed support to young people motivated to overcome their difficulties, get well and improve their lives. She says Christchurch youth, who were purposefully included in the design process, requested a ‘sanctuary-like and homely’ atmosphere for the accommodation spaces in particular.
During the day, doctors, counsellors, social workers and reception staff will also be on-site while at night, two experienced youth social workers will be on-site providing professional 24-hour supervision.
“Young people will be kept busy, engaged and focused on their care and recovery in a safe, holistic space.”
This World Suicide Prevention Day, Mike King and the mental health charity The Key to Life Charitable Trust are launching a new study into the final letters or messages left by victims of suicide.
The study is the first of its kind in New Zealand and will look to find practical answers as to why so many New Zealanders are taking their lives, with the aim of using the research to inform future interventions and suicide prevention efforts. For this research to be meaningful, they are hoping to collect 1000 letters or messages.
“Over the course of my work in mental health, many families have shared with me the taonga of reading the final words of their loved ones,” King says. “And, though every note is tragic and unique, I’ve noticed there are a handful of common themes. Families often want to contribute to efforts to help stop the scourge of suicide, as a way to honour their loved ones. We want to honour that wish and create more understanding about suicide in Aotearoa.”
The study will carefully analyse the content of final messages of both suicide victims and volunteers who have survived suicide, in an effort to distil any national trends and triggers.
“It’s a hugely contentious topic and we’re aware that we’ll need to handle the information in the letters sensitively – and of course anonymously – but we believe that there’s real potential to help others struggling in similar situations,” says Kyle MacDonald, psychotherapist and Chair of the Board of The Key to Life Charitable Trust. “We have long known that there is an absence of research of this kind in New Zealand. With the help of families who have lost someone to suicide, we aim to change that.”
Survivors of suicide are also invited to share the thoughts they were having during this particularly challenging time.
Families are being asked to share the final words from their loved ones by uploading a scan to www.1000letters.co.nz, or alternatively emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org, or posting a photocopy of notes to: 1000 Letters, PO Box 91082, Auckland 1142.
Life coaching is a personal journey of transformation – a way of helping people to help themselves and become more confident and resilient.
“Focusing on what is most important in our lives, reducing chaos and the overwhelming, is the starting point for finding balance and achieving happiness,” says life coach Karen Parker.
“I usually start with assessing work/life balance and a person’s current situation. From there, we look at their preferred outcomes for creating a positive and inspiring future. I teach various strategies and processes for getting a person to where they want to be. Particularly important is an understanding of how our thinking affects our life results. Once a client gets this, they are away!”
Karen is not a counsellor, but a guide who empowers clients to find their own answers for coping with their life’s challenges. “Investing time in understanding yourself and taking responsibility for your circumstances through sharing with an empathetic professional is the most valuable gift you can give yourself. That is the way towards achieving a better life and a better future.”
Karen will have an information stand at the Women’s Lifestyle Expo at Horncastle Arena on Saturday 5 October and Sunday 6 October. Talk to her there, ask questions about what she does and get to know her. After all, for life coaching to have a positive outcome, there needs to be a trusting relationship between coach and client.
Ten years ago, during the time of the Global Financial Crisis, Lucy Hone (now Dr Lucy Hone) couldn’t turn on the news or pick up a newspaper without being told we need to be resilient and that the economy needs to be resilient. “I wondered, does anyone actually know what this word means?” she says when we catch up ahead of her TEDxChristchurch talk last month.
A freelance writer at the time, she decided to work on an article about resilience and what it means. During her research, she stumbled across the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the home of resilience psychology.
She didn’t end up writing the article, but instead enrolled in their long-distance Master’s Degree, before completing her PhD here in New Zealand. “When I got there, the department that trained me had just picked up the contract to train all 1.1 million American soldiers to be as mentally fit as they were physically fit,” Lucy says.
“So for someone like me whose absolute main quest is how to take the research findings, drag them out of the hallowed halls of academia and bring it to the people so it can be useful in everyday lives, it was an amazing time to be there.”
On Queen’s Birthday weekend in 2014, the sudden death of her 12-year-old daughter, Abi (along with Lucy and Abi’s friends Ella and Sally Summerfield) in a tragic road accident forced Lucy to turn her substantial academic training and professional practice to foster resilience in very personal way.
“Parental bereavement is widely recognised as the worst loss to bear, but I was more fortunate than most; I had this training; I had seen this research; I knew there was hope that we could somehow get through, but more than anything, I had these tools to rely on,” Lucy says.
Now she’s taking those tools to our schools. Two years ago, Lucy and her colleague Dr Denise Quinlan formed the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience, focusing on working with schools, as well as corporates and community groups, to get them to take a whole-school approach to understanding and building wellbeing.
This time last year they were commissioned to write The Educators’ Guide to Building Whole-school Wellbeing, soon to be published by Taylor and Francis in the UK (Routledge). “Schools come to us all the time and say ‘can you help us out with our wellbeing plans, we want to take it seriously, we fully get how important it is to do so for our staff, our young people, our community too, but we don’t know where to start, we don’t know what to do and we need some help’,” Lucy says. “So that’s the book we’re writing.”
However, what makes this such a critical resource is that the pair have reached out to all their international contacts in the resilience field to ask what works and what doesn’t work. It’s all practical and it’s all straightforward and easy to implement. “Teachers don’t have time to add more things into their already busy curriculum,” Lucy says.
“Our whole mission is about getting this science out to as many people as we possibly can. Most public health in terms of mental health has been about the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. What we’re doing is equipping people with the skills, the ways of thinking and acting that prevent them from taking those costly falls – costly to individuals, to families, to society. That’s why I’m really excited about the book.”
They also head the annual ‘Wellbeing and Education New Zealand Conference’. Formerly called ‘Positive Education New Zealand (PENZ)’, it will be held on 2 and 3 April 2020 at the Christchurch Town Hall. “We’ve got independent schools, Catholic schools and Māori immersion schools, all working alongside each other to collaboratively understand what they can do to support their staff and young peoples’ wellbeing.
“This was an initiative that started with the principals; Linda Tame (Jack Tame’s mum) came to me a couple of years ago and said ‘we keep hearing from the principals that they want to work together in the wellbeing space, because wellbeing goes beyond the school gates and so do the mental health challenges’.
“So the school leaders get it, but to make a real difference it has to be a city-wide collaboration. We’re in this incredible community where we have all these schools working together. They used to be competitive, the secondary schools of Christchurch, now they’re showing the rest of New Zealand that they can work together for the better good and being in that room is just incredible when they’re working alongside each other; the teachers from St Bedes working with the teachers from Christ’s College and Rangi Ruru and Hagley College.
“The willingness to work together is critical because you don’t fix complex problems working with one stakeholder. If you want to make transformational change, you have to work together.”
Dr Lucy Hone spoke at ‘TEDxChristchurch 2019: Tūrangawaewae’.
As we increasingly recognise the importance of emotional and spiritual health in the age of digital distractions, we’re faced with the task of climbing out of the mindless trap of scrolling through newsfeeds and into the mindful haven of mental wellness.
Distraction will forever be the enemy of productivity and in a perpetually connected world where we arguably communicate more through the internet than we do in person, it’s quite easy to give into distractions while carrying out day-to-day duties such as work and exercise. If you’re depending on willpower, rather than designing an environment conducive to productivity, you’re bound to have a hard time resisting temptation.
By allowing mindfulness a place in our busy lives, we’re reminded to be present, to take time for ourselves and our bodies, and to prohibit ourselves from doing mind-numbing tasks such as scrolling mindlessly through our social media accounts.
Everyone knows that regular exercise has been shown to boost both mood and concentration, so cultivating mind-body integration via exercise is a powerful way to increase emotional and spiritual wellness, while promoting mindfulness. This can be as easy as focusing on your breath or listening to classical music (which has been proven to promote concentration) or a podcast rather than your playlist while you go for a run or use the gym.
Mindfulness apps have become a growing trend of 2019. We’ve checked out some of our faves. Limit your technology overload with Forest, a neat little app that can give you extra motivation for being present and focused. It’s simple – when you don’t want any digital distractions, you plant a seed in the app. As long as you remain in the app, your seed will grow into a tree, and the more you stay away from your phone, the thicker your forest grows. Track your progress and earn points that contribute to planting real trees around the world!
There’s no shortage of meditation/mindfulness apps, but one of our faves is Simple Habit. Designed for those who struggle to squeeze mindfulness into their busy schedule, Simple Habit offers a wheel of audio-guided meditations as short as five minutes for specific requirements, like needing a good night’s sleep or recovering from a tough day in the office.
Christchurch Detective Sergeant Brad Greenstreet beat depression and is now sharing his story and the stories of other colleagues who have encountered tough times. “Mental Health is such an important topic and it’s ok to talk about it,” the 38-year-old says.
Having been in the police force for 13 years, Brad says an accumulation of small things led to his bout of depression last year. When he started talking about it to others he discovered it was far more common than he realised – and certainly nothing to be embarrassed about. “I realised it wasn’t just me and it was ok… I wasn’t crazy,” he smiles. During his career, Brad has attended traumatic traffic accidents, incidents involving serious violence and death. He loves what he does but says the things police officers have to deal with can have a significant impact on someone’s state of wellbeing.
It was only when he started talking about his own experiences he realised how important the topic of mental health was. “It doesn’t have to be one big thing. For me it was an accumulation of a lot of small things.” Brad says he started to think about what he could do to help other cops. He reached out to a number of his colleagues asking them if they would share their personal stories on film. Then, with the help of police photographers, he compiled a series of six videos. “They shared their stories which varied from traumatic incidents on the job to personal life struggles outside of work.
“It was very emotional hearing their stories and what hard times they had gone through and how they got through it.” Brad said he didn’t want the video to solely focus on depression as it was only “one end of the spectrum and there’s a whole lot of other factors at play in someone’s wellbeing”. After the video was created, Brad made it available internally to all New Zealand police staff. From front-counter staff to district commanders he received praise from every level. Unbeknown to Brad he was recently confidentially nominated (and awarded) a Sir Woolf Fisher Police Fellowship for his work. Established last year, this year’s recipients are only the second to ever receive such an award.
Both constabulary and non-constabulary staff from around the country received their awards from Sir Noel Robinson, chairman of the Sir Woolf Fisher Trust, at Police National Headquarters in Wellington last month. Each fellowship is comprised of funding for international travel for up to six to eight weeks and includes time to holiday and undertake a pre-agreed programme of study. “I’d like to see what police abroad are doing about staff mental health and welfare.”
Working in the Metro Crime Squad, Brad is in a supervisory role with about 10 staff and says their welfare is paramount. He says while the police have dedicated welfare offices and good support networks, it is also important to keep talking about mental health. “It’s about looking after yourself, so we can look after the community.”
If you or a loved one needs help, contact the Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 to talk to a trained counsellor.
The New Zealand Construction Industry has the highest percentage of suicide for employed men of any industry, according to research by the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ).
Site Safe NZ, in partnership with the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) is urgently undertaking further research to uncover what is fuelling this alarmingly high rate of suicides in construction. Site Safe Chief Executive Brett Murray says understanding the problem is the first step to prevention. “Site Safe hopes to shed some light on what is driving poor mental health in construction, so we can then work alongside industry and government to put in place effective prevention programmes.”
The study aims to analyse the coroner’s findings of all suicides of construction workers from 2007 until 2017, some 339 cases, to better understand any common factors. An initial BRANZ scoping study suggested that a ‘macho’ or ‘harden-up’ culture was one of the key factors behind high rates of suicide in construction and that further research is urgently required.
According to the Suicide Mortality Review Committee (2016), construction has the highest suicide rate of all industries in New Zealand. At 6.9 percent, it is marginally higher than farming and forestry, which sits at 6.8 percent. “For many years we’ve put the focus on safety, rather than looking at people’s health more broadly. It’s time we recognised that we must do more and prevent suicide from having a tragic effect on the lives of so many Kiwi families.”
The study’s initial results are expected to be available early next year.