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Talking is important, say mental health organisations

Taking part in the native planting at the Awarua Wetlands in Arowhenua as part of Mental Health Awareness Week celebrations on Wednesday are (left) Kylie Robinson, of Arowhenua Whanau Services and Maddy Fisher.

People need to talk.

That is the common message identified by those working in the mental health care sector in South Canterbury.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, with a range of activities taking place to promote people of all ages to seek help and take care of their mental wellbeing. 

Participants take part in the native planting at the Awarua Wetlands in Arowhenua as part of Mental Health Awareness Week celebrations on Wednesday.

This year's health theme is "Nature is Key", with people being encouraged to get outdoors.

In South Canterbury people are also being encouraged to talk about their mental health.

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Timaru counsellor Alexia Bensemann said there was "always a need for people to be heard".

"People need to be talking about their mental health as, if they don't, they build it up inside of them and it creates reactions that aren't healthy or helping what the issue is," Bensemann said.

"Talking is very important."

That view was shared by Federated Farmers South Canterbury president Mark Adams who said Federated Farmers encouraged farmers to engage with one another about how they were feeling because "there's a language that's spoken and a recognition and empathy" between them.

"But we need to fully understand the levers of mental illness, we are hoping by encouraging people to talk ... they start a journey to recovery. 


"I think we are just beginning to realise what mental health is all about as a community."

When a farmer's mental health started to suffer, the people closest to him could suffer too, he said.

The region's older residents were also an important part of the discussion, Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton said.

"I don't think there's enough focus on the mental health needs of older people," he said.

"We know social isolation is a huge issue with older people.

"Some studies show that loneliness is the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day," Templeton said.

He said that loneliness was "absolutely" being felt by the region's older population.

Arowhenua Whānau Services kaiwhakahaere Maria Parish said a planting day at the Awarua wetlands at Arowhenua on Wednesday to celebrate the awareness week was a great example of people getting together and talking.

Four hundred native plants were planted on the day by about 60 people.

"People were planting and talking to someone that was beside them," Parish said.

"The day was about joining together with other people and sharing experiences."

She said the week was "about everyone's mental health".

"It's about opening up and talking to people and sharing time with friends and family. It's everyone's wellness and supporting people with mental illness."

Arowhenua Marae, Environment Canterbury, Arowhenua Whanau Services, the South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB), Community & Public Health, Victoria House and AMPS101 were also involved on the day.

Supporting Families Aoraki family support nurse Mandy Shelker said talking with and supporting families who had a member with a mental health or addiction issue was the aim of the organisation.

"We help to support them with what they're going through and maintain the family's well-being."

Most of the organisation's referrals were through the SCDHB's mental health and addictions service, though families could self-refer, she said.

The SCDHB-funded service had 362 new family referals last year.

Timaru's Victoria House manager Juliette Stevenson said the organisation hosted an event on Monday for the awareness week.

Presbyterian Support ran two residential care homes in South Canterbury, Wallingford in Temuka and Margaret Wilson in Timaru.

Its marketing communications and fundraising manager Katerina Tiscenko said it supported the "physical, emotional, spiritual and mental" wellbeing of residents by "actively encourage our residents to speak up about anything that is concerning them".

Tiscenko said communication was encouraged with carers, nursing staff, doctors or friends.

"Whoever they feel most comfortable chatting with," she said.

"We also provide a chaplaincy service and can facilitate any counselling that may be required."



Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 24/7 for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email

0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day.

Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

The Timaru Herald



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