This Mental Health Awareness Week (27th September - 3rd October), Hāpai Te Hauora and Te Hā Oranga o Ngāti Whātua have collectively launched ‘Whitiora 2021 - an eternal pursuit of wellbeing’, a week-long campaign that explores wellbeing through Te Āo Māori, and positions mental health as a critical component of wholistic wellbeing.

In lieu of any kanohi kitea events due to extended lockdown restrictions, Whitiora 2021 will go virtual with Whitiora Wananga, which will be hosted by Whati Te Wake and Kiri Tamahere-Waititi. Guests include Tāmati Kruger as the keynote speaker, as well as Marama Hetaraka, Rikki Soloman and Janell Dymus-Kurei.

CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora, Selah Hart says that Whitiora is an opportunity to have an indigenous conversation about mental health "As Tāmaki Makaurau enters its 6th week of lockdown, this is a stark reminder of the realities facing whānau, and the impacts that this can have on overall wellbeing, not least mental health. Whitiora is an opportunity to celebrate our own ideas and systems of wellbeing, and to recognise mental health as an integral part of hauora."

Alongside the wānanga, whānau across the motu received free Whitiora Whaiora activity packs, containing activities which facilitate holistic wellbeing. Each element of the pack looks to support whitiora for whānau, and to remind them to take time to focus on their mental wellbeing during lockdown.

Boyd Broughton, General Manager for Te Hā Oranga says that the distribution of Whitiora packs recognises the acute needs of whānau in the current climate. "The current Delta outbreak really highlights the differing needs of whānau, and whilst for some the priority might be access to kai for physical sustenance, for others, actually, it is about access to support and resource which promote mental wellbeing. The challenge in this environment is that we can start having the conversation about mental wellbeing with the same ease that we have the conversation about all other aspects of our wellbeing".

Mr. Broughton continues "The current alert levels have had an impact on everybody and their mental wellbeing, including whānau who have access to the internet, and those who don’t. It was important that the diverse and varying needs of our whānau and hapori were considered in the execution of our Whitiora 2021 kaupapa. These koha are one small way for us to reach out to whānau to offer support and to let them know that there are people thinking of them."

Ms. Hart says that the Delta outbreak has highlighted that mental health needs to be addressed and resourced under urgency "With successive lockdowns over the past 18-months, we are really starting to see where the pressure points are for our communities. What we have seen is rapid response from the Government to the pandemic, and we need to see that same urgency applied to the likes of mental health, where we can support whānau, where we can have an elimination strategy, and where we aren’t settling for an issue to be endemic in Aotearoa".

To tune into the free Whitiora 2021 Wānanga, visit the Hāpai te Hauora Facebook page event at 6pm on October 3rd.