From 23 to 29 September EIT is taking part in Mental Health Awareness Week. The initiative was started by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.
At EIT the wellbeing of staff and students is promoted throughout the whole year, and even more so during this particular week. The event programme includes, among other things, nature walks, meditation, exercise and waiata sessions. The student restaurant, On The Terrace Café, will also offer a different healthy smoothie each day and the food sharing stall will be stocked up on healthy options.
According to the World Health Organisation mental illness accounts for 15 percent of total diseases in the developed world. One in five people experience mental illness each year. By 2020 depression is set to become the second leading cause of disability in the world. In New Zealand suicide rates are the highest on record and the country experiences one of the highest rates of suicide in the world.
These numbers are reason enough to take the issue very seriously. “Wellbeing is for everyone, not just for people who experience mental illness”, says Barbara West, the student disability advisor at EIT, who is coordinating the activities during the week. “A simple way to raise awareness and reduce stigma is by reflecting on the language we use and realise the impact our words have. We need to show sensitivity to those who are struggling with their mental health and create an environment where people can talk openly, without fear of shame and humiliation.”
This year’s theme is “Te Whare Tapa Whā”. It is a model that describes health and wellbeing as a wharenui (meeting house) with four walls, taha hinengaro (mental health), taha wairua (spiritual health), taha tinana (physical health) and taha whānau (family and friends). Connection with the whenua (land) forms the foundation of the wharenui.