Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week is our annual campaign that helps Kiwis understand what boosts their wellbeing and improves mental health.
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Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), is run each year by the Mental Health Foundation.

Mental Health Awareness Week is over for another year, and is taking place on 23 - 29 September 2024.

While MHAW is an annual campaign, it is also a gentle reminder to actively prioritise and nurture our mental health beyond the week itself. We believe that people should connect with and tautoko/support each other, while continuing the kōrero about mental health and wellbeing year-round.

What is MHAW?
MHAW is our annual campaign that works to help Kiwis 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 we’re so proud of how much its grown.

We pick a new theme every year because there isn’t just one way to 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.

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.

Mā te whakarongo, ka mōhio
through listening, comes knowledge

Mā te mōhio, ka mārama,
through knowledge, comes understanding

Mā te mārama, ka matau,
through understanding, comes wisdom

Mā te matau, ka ora
through wisdom, comes wellbeing

Why does MHAW focus 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! Growing good mental health is so important that promoting wellbeing is one of the key strands of the new national suicide prevention strategy.
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.
We know lots of people use MHAW as an opportunity to share their own stories of mental illness or distress, to share stories of hope and recovery, to remember those lost to suicide and to advocate for change. We are honoured to hear these stories, to support your mahi and to advocate alongside you where we can.