It is Mental Health Awareness Week, so it is timely that the latest 15-week round of the Horowhenua-based ManUp and Legacy programmes started on Wednesday.
ManUp is a programme that helps men identify, expose and understand core root issues of why they experience dysfunctions.
Legacy is a self-empowering programme for women, designed to help them share what is in their hearts in a confidential and trusted environment.
The previous rotation of both programmes was partly through our latest Covid lockdown so the meetings were conducted through Zoom, with the national platform providing support twice a day during that time.
In 2020, the Horowhenua chapter held their own group meetings through online platforms, but it was quite a learning curve for everyone, so using a national platform this time around was a lot easier.
"We had lots of fun social nights [as well as meetings] for our members to have some interaction with each other, including Kahoot and Karaoke," said Azriel Ratu, who coordinates the local ManUp groups along with her husband.
Local video testimonies of couples who had been through both programmes were shared twice a week through the national platform over lockdown and people all over New Zealand were tuning in to watch.
"Lots of people are still suffering from 2020's lockdown," said Ratu, "and we saw a lot of ex-addicts relapsing, especially in single-parent families."
Because of these relapses, combined with food shortages, an increase in domestic violence and suicide attempts, Ratu said they received a large number of referrals to their programmes from local support agencies.
"We even set up two food storehouses in Levin and Ōtaki, within the first 24 hours of this year's lockdown, to support local families with food parcels."
The ManUp and Legacy groups in Foxton, Levin and Ōtaki are fully funded by the leaders who run them, a giving back to the community that Ratu's parents role modelled when she was growing up.
Ratu believes there is a stereotype around the kind of people who seek help from their groups, but there is representation from both Māori and Pākehā whānau, as well as Pasefika aiga.
"All our members come with a story [and] are seeking help and support to overcome generational issues," she said.
Even though the current round of the ManUp and Legacy programmes in Horowhenua have already started, people are welcome to make contact and come along at any time during the 15 weeks.
• Call 0800 162 687, or check out manup.org.nz to find out more details.