Kiwis are being encouraged to promote random acts of kindness or give up some time to volunteer in an effort to raise awareness around mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Week began today, celebrating the power of giving and it could be as simple as smiling at someone or joining a community clean up day.

Acting chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation Hugh Norriss said our mental well-being could not be taken for granted and small acts of kindness could boost our mental health.

"As well as volunteering, just small every day acts of giving can have a big impact, such as letting someone else in front of you in line at the supermarket, smiling at strangers or complimenting a friend. When we give we feel happier, feel more positive about life and other people, and are more likely to trust and cooperate with others," he said.


Mr Norriss said the awareness week was not only about acknowledging New Zealanders suffering from a mental illness this year, but to also increase mental well-being of every day kiwis.

"We believe there are a lot of pressures and expectations on people to keep up with all of the latest gadgets and trying to do well at work.

"It's first world problems but they can be stressful for people as well," he said.

According to the World Health Organisation, about 47 per cent of the population in western countries such as New Zealand suffer from depression, anxiety and addiction problems.

Mr Norriss said these common illnesses were "certainly not decreasing".

Francis Heke, a self-confessed former rock n' roller who lived the "drugs sex and alcohol" lifestyle, has battled depression for much of his life.

The 32-year-old musician-turned-yoga teacher has organised a free event as a part of the Mental Health Awareness Week called WANA Festival (We Are Not Alone) in Auckland.

The idea for the event came to him in a dream six weeks ago.


"I was in a dark spot six weeks ago and I had a vivid dream that I needed to bring everyone together that had depression or anxiety because it is such an isolated illness where you are by yourself.

"The dream had a colourful inspiring festival for people with performers, music and holistic food."

At the time, he was so depressed he could not get out of bed, but with the help of social media, he garnered a huge amount of support with people willing to help run the event.

"It absolutely exploded," he said.

With already 500 tickets already sold, Mr Heke said the response had been "amazing".

"The event is about bringing people to the present moment with other people that are struggling to get there so we can get there together," he said.

The event will include motivational speakers such as Live More Awesome co-founder Jimi Hunt, who spoke at Ted Talks about his struggles with depression.

Mr Heke now also runs free holistic meditation workshops through his organisation, True North.

He said it was not just about helping others but also helping himself.

"It was created to keep my practises up and to keep me above water too."

WANA Festival (We Are Not Alone) will be held at the Westlake Girls High School on October 10 from 11am - 4pm. The event is free but tickets are needed for admission. Tickets can be found on

There are other events happening nationwide from Dargaville to Gore as a part of the Mental Health Awareness Week.

Events include art exhibitions, yoga classes to flash mobs. Events can be registered by anyone on the website.

To see what is happening in your town go on the website or to register an event go to

Father frustrated

Dave MacPherson, father of the man who died under the care of the Waikato District Health Board, said he is still waiting on questions on how his son drowned on that fateful day.

"It's been 210 days since Nicky's death, and we have had not one answer as to what happened and not one enquiry yet started by the Minister's health sector.

Mr Macpherson said there was a lack of support for families. "One thing we know is that families of people with mental health illness issues are vital to the health and wellbeing of their loved ones, but continue to be excluded from their treatment, care and decision-making processes," he said.

In March this year, 21-year-old Nicky Stevens disappeared from Waikato DHB's Henry Bennett Centre while on an unescorted smoke break.

He was found drowned in the nearby Waikato River three days later.

Despite being a known high suicide risk, he was let out of the centre unsupervised.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said there were a number of mental health inititives in place to support poeple suffering from mental illnesses, which included a $64 million funded over four years to support young people through the Prime Minister's Youth Mental Health Project.

"The 26 initiatives bring social sector services together across the health sector, schools, and communities.

"We are also addressing the impact of suicide by strengthening support for families and communities, and extending existing services through the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan," he said.