It’s time to start talking
I’ve just returned from a week in Brisbane, attending the International Network of Indigenous Health Knowledge and Development conference, at which I gave a keynote address.
Actually I’m a pretty terrible traveller. The longer I am away, the more I yearn to be at home. It’s just as well I’ve never been asked to be Foreign Affairs Minister.
Fortunately we didn’t have much time on our hands to get lonely; we had an action-packed agenda including a range of visits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders community health centres.
I’d have to say the services had some of the most impressive facilities I have ever seen. Often there would be co-location – GP services and dental as well as fitness programmes aimed at elderly care.
And I was fascinated at the use of incentives or inducements to encourage clients to come in through the doors, or to model ideal practice – for example, pregnant women might be offered grocery vouchers if they stop smoking.
Queensland has stronger smoking controls – smoking in cars with children or smoking near playgrounds can attract a $200 fine. It gave me some great ideas.
Queensland Diabetes uses indigenous actors to act and show audiences what it means to be unwell, to discuss their diabetes, and how to achieve wellness. It’s a clever concept. Theatre allows people a certain freedom to display how they really feel, as well as to help family members connect to the lifestyle changes that are required.
Actually it was a good prelude to this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which is based around the theme ‘‘mindfulness’’.
I joined with Te Oranganui yesterday, to mark the opening of this week, and in particular to focus on the ‘‘five winning ways to wellbeing’’ which are connect, learn, take notice, keep learning and be active. It’s interesting timing that just as the Mental Health week began, Coroner Sue Johnson has been recommending a national media campaign to throw light on how to recognise and deal with a suicidal person. It is a bold approach which follows on from chief coroner Neil Maclean’s recommendation last month that suicide be brought out of the shadows.
All of these initiatives have in common the belief that talking is good for health.
In Britain they have the ‘‘Make a Pledge’’ campaign. It challenges people to make a pledge to start a conversation about mental health. Their intentions are pretty straight up: They want to empower people with mental health problems to feel confident talking about the issue without facing stigma or discrimination. And they want the 75 per cent of the population who know someone with a mental health problem to talk about it too.
So maybe that’s something we can think about at home – that we each make a pledge to have a conversation about wellness, about life, with those we love most. Often those who seem most quiet and self-contained may be the people that have the most to share.
The big question we need to ask ourselves is, how mindful are we of our whanau? Do we have the big conversations that we need to?
What priority do we give to connecting with each other at all levels?
Let’s talk about it – I would love to hear your feedback about knowing how and when to talk.
Send me a line at tariana. turia@ parliament.govt.nz.