New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori Health Authority) have today launched a ground-breaking partnership aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing outcomes in New Zealand communities.
The partnership will see expanded delivery of NZR's mental health and wellbeing programme Mind. Set. Engage. in five regions: Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury and Southland.
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said the partnership would leave a lasting impact on communities across the country.
"Rugby is in every community across New Zealand and it can play an active role in making a significant difference to the mental health and wellbeing of Kiwis. We want the game to be a force for good in our country and this is something we're incredibly passionate about."
With one in two New Zealanders experiencing a mental health issue in their lifetime, Robinson said he was heartened by the success of the Mind. Set. Engage. programme to date.
"We're seeing the programme significantly reducing the negative perceptions around mental health and increasing the number of people who feel comfortable to seek help for themselves and support others. Rugby can be proud of that."
Community engagement is key
Te Aka Whai Ora CE, Riana Manuel says the partnership is the first of its kind for New Zealand rugby and is an example of how they are working in new ways to create positive shifts in mental health and wellbeing.
"Everything we do focuses on uplifting our whānau and building resilience in our communities," says Riana.
"We see this partnership as an opportunity to expand and encourage good mental health by creating environments where seeking help is acceptable, stigma is reduced, and our rangatahi and whānau feel supported."
Formerly known as HeadFirst, Mind. Set. Engage. supports players, coaches, rugby staff, volunteers and whānau to improve their own mental well-being and provide tools to help others.
Established in 2017, the programme operates across the country and has had significant success supporting a cultural shift in the rugby community that sees more people seeking and receiving help.
Counties Manukau Rugby Union CEO Aaron Lawton said an expanded rugby-focused mental health and wellbeing programme would be hugely beneficial for the region.
"In my role, I've seen first-hand the need for a proactive programme that can help individuals strengthen their own wellbeing and empower communities to look after each other, said Lawton.
"Rugby is a wonderful vehicle for people to connect and I'm excited to see the lasting impact this partnership will have on Counties Manukau."
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