The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 has been about how connecting with nature benefits your health and wellbeing.

Whanganui District Health Board advisor Bruce Jones said the events organised by Whanganui mental health support groups have offered great variety and kicked off on Monday with 42 people enjoying a 5km walk.

Mr Jones said visiting actor and writer Rob Mokaraka inspired Whanganui audiences when he shared his experience of struggle with depression which led to a much publicised stand-off with police in 2009.

"As Rob said, after being shot in the stomach by the police, the hospitalisation and court case that followed he found to his surprise that seeking help from professionals actually helped," said Mr Jones.

Mr Mokaraka's message, he said, was delivered with music and drama to drive the message home that people suffering from depression should not put themselves in a "secret sad club."


The rest of the week included visits to Gordon's Park Scenic Reserve, a clean up Castlecliff Beach session followed by a barbecue and suicide prevention workshops with Nga Tai O Te Awa.

On Thursday at Bason Botanic Gardens, Beverly Sinclair spoke about Stanley Bason and his vision to leave an educational legacy for the community.

Bason volunteer Vonnie Cave shared a personal journey of how life as a horticulturalist had helped a loved one cope with mental illness.

The week rounded off with a "Bonkers" presentation at Balance Whanganui.

Four quest speakers shared from their personal experiences and journey with mental health challenges and/or addictions.

"The honesty and courage shown by the speakers gave attendees an appreciation of what it is like to live with Asperger's and other conditions and gave others courage and hope to persevere," said Mr Jones.

He said the aim of everyone working to support mental health in Whanganui is to influence changes in attitudes and behaviors with understanding and acceptance of people affected by mental health and addictions in the region.

The level of support from the community during Mental Health Awareness Week has encouraged Mr Jones to believe we are closer to that goal.