New Zealanders struggling with back to work anxiety related to Covid-19 are being urged to seek help early.

There has been a spike in demand for mental health services from people affected by increased workloads, work from home isolation, and those hit by job loss or business closure.

As the impact of Covid-19 deepens wellbeing experts are calling on employers to be clear about what support is available - and for employees to use it.

Many large corporations have Employment Assistance Programs (EAPs) to provide independent support and counselling to staff.

But Benestar CEO Julie Cressey said often staff were unaware of what was available and how to access it.

"Employers need to be proactive about promoting the services and encourage staff to use it sooner rather than later," she said.

"If people get in touch early they might only need one or two sessions with a counsellor and be better equipped to deal with stress."

A resilient workforce was able to handle high pressure better and was more productive, Cressey said.

Robyn Shearer, Deputy Director-General, Mental Health, and Addiction at the Ministry of Health said early intervention was key.

She said the recent $500million Covid-19 response health package meant a range of free support was being rolled out across New Zealand.

Help was available by phone, text, web, and in-person through new digital tools, virtual therapy and extra resources for telehealth services like 1737, Shearer said.

She urged workers to visit the Ministry of Health website to see what service suited their needs.


There were well-being at your finger-tips with apps such as Headspace and Mentemia (which can be downloaded free) and improved mental health services with GPs.

In your pocket help such as Mentemia can give tools to help cope with stress. Photo / Supplied
In your pocket help such as Mentemia can give tools to help cope with stress. Photo / Supplied

The onsite mental health workers were stationed at 30 GPs around New Zealand and the service would be introduced further.

"Within minutes of a doctor seeing someone and realising they may need extra support, they can walk them down the corridor and introduce them," Shearer said.

"People using these services report the life-changing effects of being able to see someone quickly - feeling less anxious, reconnecting with loved ones and sleeping better at night."

Apps such as Headspace and Mentemia had seen an increase in sign up since lockdown started.

Ministry of Health funding meant Mentemia - created by mental health advocate Sir John Kirwan - was free for all New Zealanders until at least October 2020.

Health psychology specialist Dr Fiona Crichton, on the Mentemia development team said the app was designed specifically for the workplace.

The app included advice on how to cope when work wasn't going well and making plans for things that caused anxiety such as worrying about social distancing when catching a bus.

"We have specific advice on how to deal with being overloaded at work, including how to talk to your boss about unrealistic workloads."

Crichton urged employers to set realistic workloads for staff, talk about mental well-being at work and model healthy behaviour.

"If employees see their boss leave the office to take a break, leave on time and talk about their own well-being it encourages them to do the same."


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.


• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• https://www.lifeline.org.nz/services/suicide-crisis-helpline
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202