A team of passionate mental health advocates is teaching Northlanders how to look after their own wellbeing, and they say it's all about providing people with the right skills to walk through life.
Tracey Hodgkinson is one of 11 in a team of therapists, facilitators, nurses and mental health specialists who run group sessions for people keen to strengthen their resilience and learn about cognitive behaviour therapy.
Hodgkinson founded the Skills for Life Charitable Trust (Nga Kaitiaki O Nga Pukenga O Te Ora) four years ago after gaining experience from organisations with similar approaches overseas.
"There is not a huge amount of primary mental health services in New Zealand. At the moment, we are addressing people's issues at the bottom of the cliff instead of building resilient communities," Hodgkinson said.
The concept behind her trust is to tackle widespread depression, anxiety and stress by teaching people to use hands-on tools to care for themselves.
"We want to make people independent in their approach to mental health. It's about teaching them to be their own therapist."
Hodgkinson and her team are teaching participants cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which looks at the connection between thoughts and actions.
CBT is based on the premise that our thoughts and actions are connected, and that if we understand our thoughts better, it will have an impact on the way we act. This in return influences our feelings. Changing how you think can change how you feel and act or relate to others.
Hodgkinson said CBT is a hands-on method and looks at how people can reinterpret everyday situations.
"It's about understanding our environment and the bigger picture to bring more balance to our thoughts. It's about gathering evidence and not let depression and anxiety direct the thinking."
The Skills for Life courses host about 10 people in a group and are open to anyone. They are not exclusive to people in mental health crises.
Hodgkinson said if people are unsure if the approach is the right fit, they can come for a one-on-one session or bring a support person to the course.
Funding options for participants, including referrals from Work and Income, are also available.
"Our facilitators are professionals who know how to maintain the mana in a group," Hodgkinson explained of their teaching model.
"We are meeting in a relaxed environment, which is key for us."
The charity isn't supported by the Government. Meanwhile, 18 per cent of Northlanders reported poor mental health in a Stats NZ survey last year.
For Hodgkinson, it's about recognising depression as the region's leading mental disability and overcoming remnants of shame that remain connected to depression and anxiety. They are invisible and can affect anyone.
■ This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is "Take time to kōrero". It runs until October 3.
For more information about the week go to mhaw.nz
Where to get help
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Lifelink/Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (available 24/7)
Youth services: (06) 3555 906
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.