Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is mental health awareness week here in New Zealand. The theme this "explore your way of wellbeing". This recognizes that that wellbeing is personal, but also communal in nature.  Sir Mason Durie, who is behind the holistic model of health "Te Whare Tapa Wha" has stated that we should talk more about Wellbeing and less about health. Wellbeing is more positive and active, and all encompassing than a medical model. We are all on a personal journey to wellbeing, and because we have different are of different worldviews, personalities, cultures our way of finding wellbeing will be different.

Linked to this though is that there are general ways in which human's find wellbeing. Well being can be found through finding equal footing of five main elements: these are:

Whenua/ Land: In Maori culture the whenua is where we take root. It sustains us and gives us nourishment. Whenua can include the rocks, plants, animals and people we are linked to. We are linked physically and spiritually to the land and through it connected to our ancestors and the generations that come after us. 

There are a number of ways as classrooms we can support our links to whenua; these include:

  • We can get our students to learn about their local physical features, including rivers, lakes, hills, mountains, swamps and wetlands. We could ask them to do a project on local threats to the environment or organise an activity to protect a local landmark.
  • Encouraging civic action - we can encourage students to be involved in activities such as climate march actions.
  • Establishing a vegetable garden in our schools/ home school
  • Bringing your students outside for meditation or to do work in their natural environment.

Taha Hinengaro: Mental and Emotional Wellbeing: Taha hinengaro is the head, mind concience thoughts and feelings. This is about how we feel as individuals, but also how we communicate and think. This is not just about dealing with mental illness or distress, how we express our emotions and feelings with others and our community.

Ways we can promote this in our class:

  • Engage your children in an active listening task. Get them to sit down with others in their class and listen. Barrier games or copying games are great for this.
  • Ask your colleagues what the best thing about their day has been.
  • Have a compliment circle, students sit in a circle and say one nice thing about the person sitting beside them that is not linked to their physical appearance.
  • Engage in mindfulness activities. You could use apps like calmmind or smiling mind.
  • Have a random act of kindness day at your school/house
  • Engage your students in the arts.
  • Have a pet day at your school or in your class. Pets are awesome at providing endorphins and teaching empathy.

Taha Tinana: Taha Tinana is a persons physical wellbeing. It is about how your body grows. Being physically well helps us to feel mentally well. Having a strong taha tinana means we can be there for others as well and take responsiblities in helping others!

Ways to explore wellbeing through taha tinana may include:

  • Undertaking a stocktake on how the school environment is welcoming to those with mobilitiy issues.
  • Researching healthy affordable food options and make a snack or lunch for another class at the school.
  • Organising a class sports day or a class picnic alternatively students could volunteer to take a small group from the class for a game.
  • Take care of your own physical health. Set a goal. Maybe you want to have a healthier diet, or maybe you want to run, take up dancing, swimming, rowing or waka ama or maybe have one day a week where you always leave before 4pm! 

Taha Whanau: Family and Social Wellbeing: Taha Whanau is about family and community. It is about the extended relationships in our lives. This includes our friends/ colleagues, your community, church groups, your netball or rugby team, your korero kai group.

Ways you can promote whanau wellbeing in your class:

- Organise a whanau picnic or event

- Get your students to organise a class blog outlining the activities they are engaged in your class. I'm a big advocate of Seesaw.

- Have a class picnic or lunch together where all share food. This could be as simple as sitting in a circle in class and eating together.

- Get your students to write a reflection on what makes a good friend.

- Write or draw about a community leader and the values they espouse. 

Taha Wairua: Spiritual Wellbeing:  Taha Wairua explores the individuals' relationship with the environment, people and heritage in the past, present and future. The spiritual essence of a person is your life force. Who and what you are, where you have come from and where you are going.

A view of ones spirit or wairua is very different according to persons wellbeing, for some it involves faith, or belief in a higher power, others its an internal connection with the universe. Whatever it is, it is yours and is very personal, it is also central to well being.

Ways you can promote spiritual wellbeing:

  • Ask your students to write down their values - the actions, attitudes and beliefs that are important to you.
  • Go for a walk in nature with your students. It doesn't have to be somewhere exciting I've walked the school field before with my class. 
  • Ask your students to do an assignment on an important place to them, or an animal that is important.
  • Pursuing art activities
  • Engage in Karakia at the beginning and end of your class.
  • Acknowledging different cultural holidays
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