A newly formed Queenstown based charitable trust aims to help people protect and enhance their mental health and wellbeing in the wake of significant pressures imposed by Covid-19.
The Southern Wellbeing Trust co-founders Queenstown GP Tim Rigg and health communications specialist Anna Dorsey recognised the challenges local health and social services were facing with the advent of the global pandemic last year.
“ We identified a far reaching and ongoing threat to peoples’ health and wellbeing and our Trust is trying to fill the gaps and develop innovative strategies to help keep the community well,” says Anna. “Today it includes a team of ten volunteers with Ashely Light as Trust chair.”
She says it is an ambitious goal with the focus on prevention.
A pilot project designed to bring an evidence based, established mental health programme into the community has been adopted as a first step.
“The concept is for ordinary people in the community to deliver mental health workshops where they are most needed. We already have six facilitators trained and they are going into the workplaces and other areas to talk about mental health, raise awareness of mental illness and provide people with practical skills to stay well.”
The programme is based on a model which has been successfully running in New Zealand for several years, using people who are not clinically trained to talk “peer to peer”.
“It’s a very accessible platform as they understand each other’s world and connect to one another in ways that professionals may not be able to,” says Anna. “As a priority we have trained Brazilian and Filipino facilitators who can engage with their community providing workshops in their native language.”
New parents and small business owners and their employees are also being targeted to provide them with support and a $40,000 funding grant from the Central Lakes Trust will help the pilot programme go ahead.
“What this means is that more local people will increase their understanding of mental health, learn how to protect it, understand the signs and symptoms of mental illness and learn what to do when they are worried about someone.”
The Trust has received funding from other sources including the Wakatipu Greatest Needs Fund, the Lottery Community and the Ministry of Social Development.
“This reflects confidence in our approach and we would welcome any further support,” says Anna, “to ensure that we can continue to move forward with our vision to help the Wakatipu community stay well.”