With Mental Health Awareness Week taking place from September 23 to 29, the Government has been busy preparing in several ways.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark visited Hamilton-based Wise Group last week as it launched a new, free online mental health therapy tool for New Zealand.

The tool — called Just a Thought — offers courses relating to depression and anxiety.
There are plans to add more courses within the next two years such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), TeenSTRONG — a course aimed at teenagers, and more.

Ms Ardern and joint chief executive of the Wise Group, Jacqui Graham both paid tribute to George Salmond, a foundation Wise Trust board member who died this year.

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Mr Salmond left a bequest to Just a Thought and Ms Ardern said that he had left a legacy embedded in the tool that will help thousands of New Zealanders.

Just a Thought Clinical Lead Anna Elders said that the demand for mental health services is under pressure, with some people having to wait far too long to receive help.

"The Wise Group was extremely concerned about the growing numbers of people not being able to access immediate psychological support to assist with their mental health and we knew we needed to find something that was effective, affordable and most importantly accessible to all."

The tool can be used individually or can be prescribed as a course by a health professional. Later, the GP/clinician will be able to monitor their progress through a secure login to the clinician dashboard.

Each course comes with six lessons that are available five days apart to ensure the individual has time to practise what the lessons have taught them.

Also, on the Governments agenda was appointing an initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

Ms Ardern and Mr Clark announced details which they say will play a key role in driving better mental health in New Zealand.

It will be chaired by Hayden Wano who has more than 40 years' experience in mental health, community and medical services.

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The initial commission will lay the groundwork to set up the permanent commission in February 2021.

This commission will provide independent scrutiny of the Government's progress in dealing with mental health, and promote collaboration between mental health and wellbeing organisations.

Ms Ardern says that they are taking mental health seriously and so did the previous commission.

"It was held in high regard and did a good job of providing leadership and accelerating progress across the sector.

"We want it back to hold us and future governments to account."