Whanganui people are being encouraged to sp[end time outdoors and with friends as part of mental health awareness week which begins on Monday.

Health promoter Sarah Hawken says the week's theme 'Nature is key' is the ideal prompt for the DHB to encourage Whanganui residents of all ages to look after their mental health by spending time outdoors with their colleagues, friends and/or family.

"It's widely recognised that one of the best things we can do to improve our mental wellbeing is to spend time outdoors enjoying what nature gives us," Ms Hawken says.

"With this in mind, the Workplace Lockout scheduled for World Mental Health Day on Tuesday 10 October is a great opportunity for businesses to encourage their staff to step outside and get some fresh air between 12pm and 1pm.

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"Last year, hundreds of workplaces across New Zealand 'downed tools' to make time for picnics, walks, tree-climbing or sports activities. So weather permitting, WDHB's Public Health team are planning to have morning tea outside on October 10, and WDHB Infant Child Adolescent and Mental Health and Addiction Service staff will be spending an hour in their garden on October 11.

"While the distrcit health board recognises it won't be practicable for some workplaces, including many hospital services, to 'lock' their staff out of the office for an hour, we hope businesses will encourage their staff to step outside and enjoy outdoor spaces around their workplace when they can," Ms Hawken says.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from Monday October 9 through to Sunday October 15.

For more information and suggestions around activities for the week, visit www.mentalhealth.org.nz or phone Sarah Hawken at the Whanganui Public Health Centre on (06) 348 3097.