It’s time to start talk­ing

South Waikato News - - OPINION/NEWS - By TAR­I­ANA TURIA

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.

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