Partnership takes innovative Queenstown Lakes mental health project to the next level

Dana Carver, Chair of the Good Programmes Trust with Anna Dorsey, General Manager of the Southern Wellbeing Trust.
Dana Carver, Chair of the Good Programmes Trust with Anna Dorsey, General Manager of the Southern Wellbeing Trust.

An innovative pilot project to support the mental health and resilience of the Queenstown Lakes community now has the chance to become a national model thanks to a new strategic partnership.

The Queenstown-based Southern Wellbeing Trust has joined forces with the Good Programmes Trust, national provider of the award-winning, evidence-based mental health education programme “GoodYarn”. Through the strategic partnership, the two Trusts are now working to maximise the potential of a pilot project being run in the Queenstown Lakes community, with a view to creating a model that more communities across New Zealand can access over time.

The pilot project is based around the GoodYarn mental health education workshop which helps people to talk openly about mental health and wellbeing, learn how to recognise common signs and symptoms of mental illness, and support those experiencing mental distress to access help.

Managed by the Good Programmes Trust, the GoodYarn model is different to other mental health programmes in that it trains non-clinical people to deliver the programme to their colleagues or peers. This means that the knowledge and support offered is more easily accessible to the audience and stays in the community in which it is delivered.

Since 2014, hundreds of GoodYarn workshops have been delivered in rural communities and large workplaces across New Zealand with excellent results. The programme has also recently been rolled out in a further 15 countries through a partnership with Fonterra.

After seeing the impact of COVID on the mental health and wellbeing of the Queenstown Lakes community, the Southern Wellbeing Trust saw an opportunity to adapt the GoodYarn workshops to support the local, diverse Queenstown Lakes community.

With seed funding secured from various organisations and grants, the Southern Wellbeing Trust has been working since December to recruit and train local people as community-based facilitators to deliver GoodYarn to their peers through free workshops held in Queenstown.

Facilitators have been recruited from all corners of the community. They are non-clinical but are passionate about mental health, good at facilitation, understand their community and, in the case of migrant communities, are able to easily translate the content. They are supported with regular supervision from a clinical team including a GP and mental health counsellor, to ensure their ongoing safety.

The first Queenstown workshops have already been held for Filipino and Brazilian communities as well as new and expectant parents. The initial workshops have been extremely well received, with 100 percent of the participants to date rating them highly and saying they would “recommend it to others in their community”.

Southern Wellbeing Trust co-founder Anna Dorsey says that the pilot project is going some way to addressing a key finding of last November’s community-led Mental Health Forum.

“There was a strong desire from the participants to see mental health education increased in our community, so by raising awareness of mental health we can help overcome barriers of stigma and culture and make it easier for people to support each other and seek help if they need it.

“By focusing first on specific community groups who have seen increased stresses during COVID, we’re ensuring that the GoodYarn pilot is tailored to work for those who need it most,” said Anna.
“Ultimately this work will help people build stronger local support networks and increase our communities’ resilience by fostering a more caring and supportive culture.”

Dana Carver, Chair of the Good Programmes Trust, says her team was eager to partner on the pilot project because it was a “good fit” with its existing peer delivery model and they strongly believed that the community would benefit from the programme.

“It’s really exciting to be able to bring the benefits of the GoodYarn model into a community setting. It’s exactly the same premise - our workshops are interactive and inclusive and designed to be relevant to each audience and their experience. And our evidence and experience strongly shows that a ‘peer to peer’ model works. The facilitators can really connect with their groups, talk their language and be a consistent contact point within their immediate community.”

The GoodYarn pilot programme has been supported and funded by the following organisations and grants: The Lottery Community and Lottery Covid-19 Community Wellbeing Fund; Wakatipu Community Foundation’s Greatest Needs Fund; Central Lakes Trust; Community Trust South; Office of Ethnic Communities; and the Ministry of Social Development.

Details of upcoming workshops will be available on the Southern Wellbeing Trust’s website
The next step is to make the workshops more widely available across the Queenstown Lakes District and the Trusts are working with the business community to co-design workshops specifically for small businesses.