Mental Health Awareness Week
Welcome to Mental Health Awareness Week for 2019!
This is an important week for the New Zealand Defence Force. It’s a reminder for us to talk about mental wellbeing for our community and learn about how we can look after ourselves, our mates, and our families better. It’s also a great time to remind ourselves of what support and resources are available to us here at NZDF.
We’ve seen huge improvements within the Force with people being more open to talking about mental wellbeing and seeking support when they need it – but we are still on a journey. It’s important for us to remember we are a subset of the broader New Zealand population and will experience similar rates of mental ill-health as the everyday New Zealander. We know the traits that make us successful as a fighting force (like being strong, self-reliant, and in control) can sometimes make it feel harder to ask for help, so it’s important that we have a plan in place to tackle this if we ever find ourselves not going so well.
The nature of our work and military lifestyle can place unique demands on us and our families, so it’s important that we are open with talking about our mental health and proactively look after ourselves to maintain our wellbeing, and seeking support when we need it.
We encourage everyone to get involved with any events at your camp or base this week and take time to explore your way to wellbeing.
Our favourite ways to wellbeing
Everyone has their own unique ways for looking after their wellbeing. It’s important you find your own and know what works for you, and then incorporate them into your life as regularly as possible. Here are some of our favourites:
- Spend quality time with people who genuinely make you feel good.
- Invest in other areas of your life outside of work so you aren’t defined just by your work.
- Set yourself a goal to work towards and motivate you to keep going.
- Have a plan about what you’d do if you’re not feeling okay – identify one or two safe people that you’d trust to talk to about your mental health.
- Keep a list of your unique signs of stress and have a plan to tackle them as soon as you notice them appearing.
- Explore ways to maintain your work/life balance - have a chat to your manager about managing your work demands and exploring flexible work options.
- Try something new – whether it be a hobby, new activity, or meeting new people.
- Schedule in time to exercise and to prepare a healthy meal – it’s much easier when it’s planned!
- Take annual leave regularly. Time away from work can help put things in perspective.
- Take time to have a good laugh with your mates and loved ones.
- Take time away from your phone, technology and social media.
- Look for opportunities to give back to the community and support others.
- Take a moment to appreciate the good things in life that we can take for granted.
- Give mindfulness meditation a go – it can help you stay in the moment and manage uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
Start a Conversation
It’s important we talk about our mental wellbeing and how we’re going. It’s not always an easy conversation to have, but it’s important that we do. Leaders can use the Conversation Starters resource to talk to their teams this week about mental health. It helps to identify as a team what good mental health looks like and how we can enable it.
You can find the resource here:
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We know our personnel often don’t have access to the intranet or internet, so might not know what support is out there for mental health. We also know that the stigma associated with mental health can make it hard to ask for help, even if we know what support is there. We want to get the ball rolling on changing this by talking more openly about mental health in NZDF, promoting our resources and tackling the stigma that surrounds it.
Our #TimetoTalk campaign launched in Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 with the release of the NZDF-branded silicone bracelets with our helpline number 0800 NZDF4U and #TimetoTalk printed on them. Due to their popularity, these are being distributed again this year. Personnel have approval to wear them during Mental Health Awareness Week. Wearing this band sends a clear message to your mates and colleagues that you support Mental Health awareness, and you are someone willing to be there for someone in need. Get in touch with your Defence Community Facilitator to get your hands on one.
Support and Resources
We have some great support services and resources available for both personnel and families to use. Here are our favourites:
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