Mental Health Awareness Week FAQs

Mental Health Awareness Week, known as MHAW, gets bigger each year. Find answers to some frequently asked questions.

If it’s your first Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), you might have a few questions. We’ve answered the most common ones below. Any other questions? Email

When is MHAW?

This year, MHAW is taking place on 26 September – 2 October 2022.  

We announce the following year’s dates at the end of the year, once we have evaluated the campaign and received feedback on the dates that work best for the public, namely workplaces and schools. However, the campaign typically takes place near the end of September.  

What is MHAW?

MHAW is our annual campaign that works to help New Zealanders understand what boosts their wellbeing and improves mental health. We’ve been running it since 1993 (when not many people wanted to talk publicly about mental health) and since then its grown immensely.   

We pick a new theme every year because there isn’t just one way to boost wellbeing and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everyone in Aotearoa.  Hopefully, every new MHAW adds a new skill, tool or strategy to your wellbeing kete to help you every day and to draw on when times are tough. 

How do I find out about MHAW and get involved?

Visit our page for resources, events, activities, competitions and much more! 

What is wellbeing?

In short, wellbeing is feeling good, functioning well and feeling connected. The Mental Health Foundation is committed to an Aotearoa where everyone can enjoy good mental health and wellbeing. What does this mean? It means an Aotearoa where we feel good and do well, most of the time. 

It doesn’t mean we don’t experience tough times – it doesn’t even mean that we don’t experience mental illness or distress! It means we have the tools, support and environments we need to be who are we and to build and sustain lives worth living. 

What is the theme for MHAW this year?

This year the theme is ‘Reconnect - with the people and places that lift you up’.  

We chose this theme because 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. But connection is so important for our wellbeing. It brings purpose and belonging to our lives and makes us feel happier and more secure.   

That’s why this MHAW we’re encouraging you to reconnect with the people and places that lift you up. MHAW is an opportunity to tune into your mental health and wellbeing, reconnect with the people who lift you up and places that are special to you, and notice how this makes you feel. 

During MHAW, we will have a new theme each day to help you reconnect this MHAW. Check out the MHAW 2022 Guide for the daily themes, and ideas for what you can do each day.  

What about people who are mentally unwell?

MHAW is for everybody – we really mean that. We would never pick a theme that only works for people who do not or have not experienced mental illness. Your ways to wellbeing when you’re not feeling great might be different to what works when you’re well. 

That’s okay! It’s important for you to do what you can and what feels best to you. Maybe it’s just texting someone back, taking a moment to notice the sun on your face or listening to a song that connects with you. 

We know a focus on wellbeing can feel small – it can feel like the MHF isn’t seeing the huge pain people are feeling or that we’re not acknowledging the big challenges Aotearoa is facing in making sure people have the right support for their mental health. It can feel like advice to connect with others or go for a walk belittles what you’re going through. 

We hear you. And of course better services are needed. We also know from the lived experience of people who have significant mental health challenges and from research that actions to improve wellbeing do support healing and recovery – even when you feel really bad. 

We are working every day to advocate for improved mental health services, the right support from our whānau, friends and community, less prejudice and discrimination. New Zealand needs to tackle a whole bunch of big problems like racism, poverty and violence, too. 

These are barriers to us feeling and functioning well – and we will never stop working on removing those barriers. 

But we can’t wait for these things to happen before we focus on wellbeing. We can’t just focus on removing risk factors and barriers – if we really want to make sure New Zealanders have lives worth living we need to make sure we all have opportunities to connect, grow, learn and build good mental health and wellbeing. That’s what MHAW is all about. 

Is MHAW a fundraiser?

We don’t run MHAW as a fundraiser, but we know many people choose to raise funds for the Mental Health Foundation as part of the week. We have an awesome fundraising team who are available to support/tautoko anyone keen to raise funds. Get in touch with to find out how you can get involved. 

We welcome your support but you absolutely do not need to fundraise for MHAW to take part. 

Why does MHAW focus only on wellbeing?

This is a fair question! In New Zealand we do talk a lot about mental illness and mental distress because they’re issues so many of us face every day. But we don’t have a huge amount of awareness about what good mental health is, what it looks like and how we can each work to build it. That’s why we run MHAW as a wellbeing campaign – wellbeing is important!  

But know that we’re also advocating for better systems, services and communities for people who experience mental illness as well. We’re doing that mahi every day. 

If you’re worried about yourself or someone else, you can find information about how to have a safe and supportive kōrero, and where to find support in our MHAW 2022 Guide.