Topics: Environment, Health, Rereātea - Midday News

Mental Health Awareness Week goes bush

By Jessica Tyson

A record number of New Zealanders are celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week which kicks off today with a new theme Let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing - Mā te taiao , kia whakapakari tōu oranga!

Hāpai Te Hauora and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) joined forces to set the theme and a record number of people and organisations have registered to get involved.

Hāpai Te Hauora Pou Tikanga Rangi McLean says, "Our identity as Māori is intrinsically connected to the taiao, so Mental Health Awareness Week provides opportunity to reaffirm this."

Events and community workshops are being held throughout the week including waka ama, mahi ngāo, māra kai, Māori movement and sharing stories about the well-being of whānau.

Hāpai Te Hauora chief operations manager Selah Hart says connecting with Māoritanga, whakapapa and identity is an important way for all to maintain mental well-being.

“We hope these five workshops are useful ways to help our Māori communities reconnect with traditional practices, and enhance well-being along the way.”

MHF Māori development manager Ellen Norman says Māori creation traditions and whakapapa are core to New Zealand's strong relationship with nature.

“Knowing and understanding these relationships strengthens our identity as a nation.  Knowing the history of our maunga, and when and where to gather kaimoana and kai from the ngahere increases a sense of connection, identity and belonging.”

Several other events for Māori communities are also being held in Kaikohe, Tauranga, Kawakawa and Kaitaia throughout the week.