Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), is run each year by the Mental Health Foundation.

Every year in NZ when we celebrate and share our experiences with Mental Health that there’s a theme that is organized by the main organization of the Mental Health Foundation and in the past few years that each theme celebrated was different. You can find out more about the Mental Health Foundation New Zealand by clicking here.  

What is MHAW?

MHAW is our annual campaign that works to help Kiwis understand what boosts their well-being and improves mental health. We’ve been running it since 1993 (when not many people wanted to talk publicly about mental health) and we’re so proud of how much it’s grown.
The Mental Health Foundation pick a new theme every year because they believe that there isn’t just one way to well-being and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everyone in Aotearoa. Hopefully, every new MHAW adds a new skill, tool, or strategy to your well-being kete to help you every day and to draw on when times are tough.

What about people who are mentally unwell?

MHAW is for everybody – we really mean that. We would never pick a theme that only works for people who do not or have not experienced mental illness. Your ways to well-being, when you’re not feeling great, might be different from what works when you’re well. That’s okay! It’s important for you to do what you can and what feels best to you. Maybe it’s just texting someone back, taking a moment to notice the sun on your face, or listening to a song that connects with you.
We know a focus on wellbeing can feel small – it can feel like the MHF isn’t seeing the huge pain people are feeling or that we’re not acknowledging the big challenges Aotearoa is facing in making sure people have the right support for their mental health.
It can feel like advice to connect with others or go for a walk belittles what you’re going through. We hear you. And of course, better services are needed. We also know from the lived experience of people who have significant mental health challenges and from research that actions to improve well-being do support healing and recovery – even when you feel really bad.
We are working every day to advocate for improved mental health services, the right support from our whānau, friends and community, and less prejudice and discrimination. New Zealand needs to tackle a whole bunch of big problems like racism, poverty and violence, too. These are barriers to us feeling and functioning well – and we will never stop working on removing those barriers.
But we can’t wait for these things to happen before we focus on well-being. We can’t just focus on removing risk factors and barriers – if we really want to make sure New Zealanders have lives worth living we need to make sure we all have opportunities to connect, grow, learn, and build good mental health and wellbeing. That’s what MHAW is all about.
Mā te whakarongo, ka mōhio through listening, comes knowledge Mā te mōhio, ka mārama, through knowledge, comes understanding Mā te mārama, ka matau, through understanding, comes wisdom Mā te matau, ka ora through wisdom, comes wellbeing

Why does MHAW focus on well-being?

This is a fair question! In New Zealand, we do talk a lot about mental illness and mental distress because they’re issues so many of us face every day. But we don’t have a huge amount of awareness about what good mental health is, what it looks like, and how we can each work to build it. That’s why the Mental Health Foundation New Zealand runs MHAW as a well-being campaign – well-being is important! Growing good mental health is so important that promoting well-being is one of the key strands of the new national suicide prevention strategy.
They’re also advocating for better systems, services, and communities for people who experience mental illness as well. We’re doing that Mahi every day.
We know lots of people use MHAW as an opportunity to share their own stories of mental illness or distress, to share stories of hope and recovery, to remember those lost to suicide, and to advocate for change. They are honored to hear these stories, to support your mahi, and to advocate alongside you where we can.
In the last few years of their campaigns as shared have had different themes and they are as follows:

Monday 21 – Friday 25 September 2020


26 September – 2 October 2022 – RECONNECT – with the people and places that lift you up, hei pikinga waiora.

Downloadable resources – click here  

18 – 24 September 2023.


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