Workplace mental wellness boosted with GoodYarn’s strategic partnerships

The urban version of the iconic GoodYarn rural mental wellness programme will be expanded into more of New Zealand’s workplaces with the announcement of two new strategic partners.
Synergy Health and Education Unlimited have been selected following a nationwide search for the right partners to help take GoodYarn to a broad variety of urban workplaces. The programme is designed as a practical starting point for businesses and organisations aiming to address mental health and wellbeing.
Chairperson of the Good Programmes Trust, Dana Carver, says the two partners have been selected for their commitment and track records delivering synergetic programmes, their shared values, and the complementary client bases. The GoodYarn programme will be smoothly extended into corporates; the trades and manufacturing sectors; and into clusters of smaller businesses that share sectors or locations.
“GoodYarn has been huge in the rural sector, increasing awareness of the signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses, and building confidence to identify it, talk about it, and know how and where to get help,” says Dana. “It’s very positive to see the programme now taking off in urban settings and across workplaces.”
The drive for improved mental wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand is reflected in the 2019 budget, and the Health and Safety at Work Act requires a duty of care to protect mental health from harm due to work.
GoodYarn equips employers to walk towards the problem rather than being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, providing a tangible way for business owners to make a real difference to their people. The programme is evidence-based and peer-led. Facilitators, usually employees from the business, are trained via a two-day intensive workshop to deliver the programme. This is cost-effective and the expertise of the facilitator stays within the workforce. Participants respond better to people they know and the facilitator remains a positive connection point following the training, making mental wellness part of business as usual.
Both Synergy Health and Education Unlimited will be able to deliver GoodYarn workshops and train up employees to become GoodYarn facilitators within their own organisations.
Synergy Health’s Client Relationship Manager, Martin Leighton, said the GoodYarn partnership presented a natural fit for them to enhance their mental health offering.
“GoodYarn ticked all the boxes for us – strong research and evidence-based roots, proven effectiveness, and a sustainable programme that can make a real difference to an organisation’s culture,” said Martin.
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Partnering with GoodYarn would extend Education Unlimited’s ability to make a difference to individuals, companies and Aotearoa, said Director, Tina Rose. “We have built up strategic partnerships with employers that enables us to increase the skills of their people, and this is more and more heading in the direction of improving mental wellness.”
Dana says having “a GoodYarn” creates culture change at an organisational level; and the partnerships will enhance collaboration and create culture change across industries.
“The positive link between good mental health and productivity is undisputed,” says Dana. “Workplaces that support mental wellbeing are better for staff, employers and customers; and lower stress levels mean less staff turnover and a more positive environment.”
By the end of 2020 the Trust aims to have more than 15,000 workers across 80 businesses through the GoodYarn programme. As at the end of June 2019 GoodYarn has reached nearly 5300 people via workshops delivered through 175 trained facilitators working across 26 licenced organisations.

GoodYarn at Fonterra

Fonterra’s milk tanker drivers spend many hours working alone at all times of the day, and are often the only Fonterra employees farmer shareholders will see on a day-to-day basis.

The global dairy co-operative’s Health and Wellbeing Manager for New Zealand’s sites, Terry Buckingham, says their drivers reported they wanted some support to better manage their mental wellbeing, and wanted to be able to have better conversations about wellbeing with farmers.

“Unfortunately, our drivers are facing some situations where they have come across people in distress. Just recently one of our drivers noticed someone sitting on the edge of a cliff.  He called the police and kept them talking until emergency services arrived.

“So we wanted to give them tools to have healthy conversations and strategies for supporting others.”

Terry met with Dana Carver from DairyNZ, which had – with WellSouth – created GoodYarn, a collaborative mental health literacy programme that was initially aimed at the rural sector. Terry knew GoodYarn would be perfect for Fonterra’s workforce. So he started with the milk tanker drivers back in 2017, putting them through GoodYarn workshops.

“GoodYarn has been getting some great success. The feedback shows it’s very practical, easy to understand and uses realistic scenarios that are suitable for our people. It gives them strategies they can use and things they can say, as well as ideas for where they can refer people to for support.

“It’s aimed at helping anyone talk about mental health; whether about their own or the people they have contact with. It’s about creating an environment where our people spend more time talking and having meaningful conversations with each other and their families.”

The GoodYarn workshops were initially delivered to all Fonterra’s 1600 drivers. “Our evaluations showed an 80% satisfaction rate, which is a good response,” says Terry.

“From that we’ve seen a real shift in how people regard talking about mental health and mental distress. Coming into the workshops they seemed a bit hesitant, but coming out they said they felt quite confident in having a supportive conversation with someone.”

Terry says managers are deliberately mixed into the workshops. “People leave their job titles at the door. We’re here to talk about mental health and that affects everyone equally.

“Among the team there’s now a greater awareness of pressure, workloads, stressors and other determinants of mental health. They also know how to manage that by using simple tools such as the Five Ways to Wellbeing.”

Based on the success with tanker drivers, Fonterra is rolling GoodYarn out further. “In 2018 we rolled it out across our Distribution Centres, which has inserted the workshop into its Safe People, Safe Food learning development programme.”

Because the programme is designed to be peer-to-peer, Fonterra’s own people run the workshops. Terry says at the start they used the company’s health and wellbeing team as facilitators, but now have a wider group of non-health professional facilitators trained up.

“It’s about training our people for our people. We picked them for their ability to facilitate but also because they have good communication skills, good empathy and they’re authentic. They’re also natural leaders within the organisation and know how to support our people.

“The key is to think big but start small. GoodYarn has been one of those programmes we have been able to build from the ground up with the support of the GoodYarn team,” he says.

“We want as many people as possible to benefit from GoodYarn. At Fonterra we encourage people to bring their whole-selves to work, and we know if our people have good mental health they are likely to be thriving and enjoying their work.”

About GoodYarn

Since it was first rolled out in 2014, GoodYarn has been developed into a programme for all workplaces, helping people talk about mental health and wellbeing, and support those experiencing mental distress.

“GoodYarn is about helping people understand what mental health is and reducing the stigma around it,” says Terry, who is now on the Board of the Good Programmes Trust, which manages GoodYarn. “It also covers how to recognise common signs of mental distress, how to stay mentally well, and how to respond and help those who need further support.”

Whether held by a business or community organisation, the workshops are usually delivered in an informal setting. They have been run at staff rooms, rural organisations, conference rooms and community halls or similar. It’s peer-led, so non-health professionals – usually employees from the business – are trained via a two-day intensive workshop to facilitate the programme.

Not only is that more cost-effective than paying an external facilitator, Terry says participants respond better to people they know, and the expertise of the facilitator stays within the workforce, becoming someone people can connect with.

The workshop is backed up by a GoodYarn workbook, which is written by experts, but in plain language. It’s evidence and research-based to ensure the advice and information within is the best-practice approach to mental health promotion.

Winner of the 2016 Mental Health Services Award, as at mid-2019, GoodYarn has reached more than 7000 New Zealanders working in small and medium businesses, as well as some of the country’s largest. There are now 60 GoodYarn facilitators across 25 industries.

It’s run as charitable trust. Companies pay a fee for their people to be trained as facilitators, then a licence fee that covers the cost of the course materials, which can be personalised with an organisation’s own logo. For more about GoodYarn, see

This article first appeared as a case study on the Wellplace website

Creating mentally healthy workplaces through GoodYarn

For immediate release. (Download PDF)

GoodYarn, a successful rural mental wellness programme for the rural sector, is now launching the GoodYarn Workplace Programme for businesses across New Zealand.

“The first step in addressing mental health in the workplace is being able to talk about it,” says Dana Carver, Chairperson of the Good Programmes Trust. “GoodYarn has been huge in the rural sector, increasing awareness of the signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses, and building confidence to identify it, talk about it, and know how and where to get help.”

GoodYarn is a practical starting point for businesses and organisations wanting to address mental health and wellbeing. New Zealand’s award winning rural mental health programme got over 5,000 farmers and rural professionals talking about mental health. The fundamentals of the rural programme have been reworked to suit New Zealand businesses; rural and urban.

Mental health in New Zealand is front of mind right now. Workplaces that support mental wellbeing are better for staff, employers and customers, with lower stress also meaning less staff turnover and a more positive environment. The Health and Safety at Work Act now specifically requires a duty of care to protect mental health from harm due to work, and the Institute of Directors, in its latest edition of BoardRoom, has listed “mental health and wellbeing in the workplace” as one of the top five issues for 2019.

The programme gives employers a product which can easily be embedded into business as usual and importantly, places employees firmly in the driving seat to create the workplace culture they want to be part of.

From the 5000 people participating in the Programme so far, feedback is clear:
• It is helping them create a more caring workplace culture;
• It provides personal development to staff;
• It is helping staff to keep themselves well; and
• It is helping them create a sense of contribution and collaboration.

Twenty-two organisations are currently licenced to deliver the GoodYarn programme across a range of industries.

Hayley Laughton, Safety and Wellbeing Co-ordinator for Otago Polytechnic, one of the newest licencees, describes the Programme as “meaningful, down to earth and shows how every person can make a difference.”

Fleur McCorkindale, Risk & Wellbeing Advisor, Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO), another new license holder, says GoodYarn is something their people had been looking for. BCITO had identified poor mental wellbeing as a critical risk to their business and wanted to do something about it. “The in-house, peer to peer aspects of GoodYarn was particularly appealing to our staff and management,” she says.

By the end of 2020, the Trust hopes to have 80 businesses and 15,000 workers across NZ participating in the GoodYarn programme.

“In this way having “a GoodYarn” will create culture change at an organisational level and collaboration will create culture change at an industry level,” Carver says.


For more information contact: GoodYarn Programme Manager, Michelle Thompson on 021 2347413.

Photo: Snapshot of the new GoodYarn Workplace workbook

Note to editors:
The Good Programmes Trust was established in 2017 and gained charitable status in July 2018. The Trust has five trustees and is responsible for overseeing the GoodYarn Programme.

The GoodYarn programme was first offered in 2015 as an initiative for rural communities and rural professionals, especially those involved in the business of farming. Demand for, and feedback from, the rural model led to the development of a workplace model in 2018.

• GoodYarn Rural is aimed at farmers and professionals engaging with farmers.
• GoodYarn Workplace is aimed at helping staff, teams and colleagues and can be used in all organisations, both rural and urban.