Creative Fellows

Winning projects helping to end mental distress discrimination
Since 2007, 27 artists, writers, illustrators, videographers, playwrights, filmmakers, musicians and poets have been awarded a Creative Grant as part of the Pūtea Pāpāho/Mental Health Media Grants programme. Projects have ranged from poetry collections and art exhibitions, documentaries and films to music albums, plays and books
Until 2020, at least two creative grants were awarded each year, both proudly funded by Te Hiringa Hauora/the Health Promotion Agency.

Our Mental Health Media Grant fellows for Creative projects are:

  • 2020: Paurini Wiringi, Adam Rohe
  • 2019: Harriet Bremner, Hāpai te Hauora
  • 2018: Bex Lipp and Craig Phillips, Michelle Mae Cameron
  • 2017: Hamish Oakley-Browne, Action Education
  • 2016: REcollective Theatre Company
  • 2015: Rob Mokaraka, Caren McLean, Rachel Ross
  • 2010: Dylan Keys, Georgie Tutt, Helena Chan, Rob Mokaraka, Patricia Deavoll
  • 2009: Michelanne Foster, Sam RB, Stephen McCurdy, Graham Bishop
  • 2008: Karlo Mila, Jenn Shelton, Kristian Lomath, The Silk Tent Company
  • 2007: Jessica La Bas, Jo Randerson, Debbie Hager

Featured projects

Michelle Mae Cameron: Fight or Flight

Wellington-based videographer Michelle Mae Cameron saw a gap in the stories that were being told about anxiety and depression: they didn’t include the voices of young people. 

Her six-part documentary series Fight or Flight sets out to change this by sharing the stories of a diverse range of young people who have experienced mental distress. The series is bought to life through interview recordings and animations.

Bex Lipp and Craig Phillips: Aroha’s Way

Inspired by her own journey with mental distress, publisher Bex Lipp and her friend and illustrator Craig Phillips set out to make a children’s book that would show parents and teachers how to help young people in distress in a soothing and non-judgmental way.

Entitled Aroha’s Way, this beautifully illustrated book takes children and adults through the four stages of anxiety experienced by Aroha, the main character. The book sold out multiple times and is currently being translated into te reo Māori.

Rob Mokaraka: Shot Bro

Writer and actor Rob Mokaraka took his highly publicised encounter with the police - outside his own home in Point Chevalier on 27 July 2009 - and developed it into a one-man show: Shot Bro: confessions of a depressed bullet.

Rob describes the performance as a “serious black comedy about a real fight with depression”. The inaugural season ran over four nights in Whangarei. (delete ‘in June’). The show has since debuted in Wellington as part of the Kia Mau Festival and was made into a documentary in 2020.

Sam RB: Seems I Might Be Human

Singer-songwriter Sam RB launched her debut album Seems I Might Be Human, in September 2010. The album is a collection of songs written over 20 years, describing her journey and experiences.

Two of the singles from the album, made it onto the sound track for NZ film, The Insatiable Moon (2010). Sam went on to pen the winning song for the Olympic Songwriting competition. Stand Tall became the official anthem of the 2012 New Zealand Olympic team.

Sam has continued to follow her passion and released her second album, Queen Street Acoustics in 2013 and her third album, Finding Your Way Home in 2014.

Follow Sam's progress on Facebook or

Kristian Lomath: Seclusion circle series

Rotorua-based artist, Kristian Lomath (pictured above), created an installation of original art that explores his experience of depression, self-discovery and recovery as an artist.

Visitors physically engage with the exhibition pieces by walking through, around and into twelve, three-metre-high, double-sided, painted panels.

Five other local artists - computer analyst/writer Malcolm Hore, potter/sculptor George Andrews, photographer Yvonne Westra, writer, artist and musician Barbara O'Reilly and designer Anna Revell - each contributed a panel that reflects their own experience of mental illness.

"What I would like people to walk away with," says Kristian, "Is the knowledge that it is possible to live with mental illness - and that you can pursue your dreams and be successful."

The Silk Tent Company: Girl with no Words

The Silk Tent Theatre Company of Wanaka - Gilly Pugh, Lizzi Yates, and Lucy O'Hagan - developed a script for a multi-media theatre performance exploring a community's responses to mental distress.

Girl with no Words tells the story of a young woman's experience of self-injury by cutting, and the experience of the people around her; family, health care professionals and the wider community.

Set in any town, in the present time, the work uses a variety of story-telling conventions in performance, music, visual art and film. "We want our audience to think about understanding, support and compassion in the face of mental distress."

Girl with no Words plumbs a difficult subject with energy, intelligence and feeling. An exploration of the human condition, it is provocative, informative and ultimately hopeful.