A few weeks back, we celebrated Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s MHAW felt particularly important to us, as it coincided with the launch of our official partnership with the Mental Health Foundation of NZ. From day dot, we’ve had a blast working with the Mental Health Foundation, and while we’re sure all of the team are legends, we feel we really struck gold with Jess and Alanna. We thought we’d give them a couple of weeks to decompress, and then we’d shed a little light on just how great they are. So, here we are… Grab your favourite mug, fill it up and tuck in.
Q. Hey Alanna & Jess, congrats on an incredible Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW). You must be stoked with how it went. What were your highlights?
Alanna: Thank you guys so much! This was my 3rd year working on MHAW and it’s safe to say every year I’m blown away by the amazing stories and conversations that are started because of it. A highlight for me was having Eden and Saira share their stories and seeing how they’ve inspired others. I’ve been lucky to cheer Eden and Saira along as they put their hands up to fundraise for the MHF earlier this year and it has been wonderful seeing them continue to champion mental health all year round.
Jess: Agreed! We are pretty stoked, it turned out to be our biggest MHAW yet. A highlight for me was seeing how many people resonated with the campaign messaging this year — it felt pretty relevant considering we were all in the thick of level restrictions. The best part was seeing so many people use the week as an opportunity to share their own experiences or spread awareness, and in really cool and creative ways too. This just seems to grow more and more each year, and I think a lot of that is down to people not feeling like mental health is such a taboo topic anymore — the stigma seems to be lessening over time. We couldn’t really ask for much more than that.
Q. While the next one is nearly a year off, can you give us a little tease of what the 2022 theme might be? And how do you pick them?
Jess: We pick the themes based on public feedback and their suggestions, and then a pretty hefty consultation process. We don’t know what next year’s will be yet, but what we can tell you is that it’ll always be something that aims to encourage people to think about their mental health and the small things they can do everyday to look after it.
Q. What's your official role at the MHF? What does this mean your days look like?
Jess: My role is Communications and Marketing Project Lead — I mostly work across our campaigns and at the moment I’m wrapping up leading Mental Health Awareness Week. Each day is different, but there are always catch ups with the wider team, lots of working alongside contractors and stakeholders on different parts of the campaign, and some social and comms pieces in between. The team is an awesome bunch, they make every day great... We ran MHAW in lockdown and they were such champs pulling everything together from home! I feel super lucky to have my job.
Alanna: I pinch myself on a regular basis that I’ve landed my job as the Senior Fundraising Relationships Officer! In a nutshell, I get to work with amazing businesses and partners like Coffee Supreme who are rallying behind mental health. My day to day involves coming up with fun ways for our partners to support our work and campaigns like MHAW and Pink Shirt Day. As a self professed chatter box, it’s a dream getting to spend my work day talking about mental health with passionate people across NZ as they champion the cause in their businesses and communities.
Q. We know MHAW is just one part, albeit a pretty important one, of the Mental Health Foundation’s work. What’s on the cards for the rest of the year?
Alanna: Definitely, our campaigns are a big part of the picture but there’s so much other incredible work that goes on behind the scenes too. Our policy and advocacy team have just sent in a submission to the Government on banning conversion therapy, and they’re currently developing a response to the new mental health legislation that is repealing and replacing the Mental Health Act. Our teams are also working on a series of new suicide prevention and bereavement resources, and we’re also working on a wellbeing campaign specifically for Tāmaki Makaurau who have been doing the hard yards in this latest Covid-19 outbreak.
Q. What’re some ways that you each take care of your mental health?
Jess: A big one for me is just being really open with others about how I’m feeling — going for a walk whilst having a big vent on the phone to a friend has been a lifesaver in lockdown. Swapping scrolling social in the morning for a 10 min meditation on the Calm app is an ambitious habit I’m trying to stick to lately, there are some really great breathing exercises on there too. Mostly just trying my best to do the little things every day that keep me feeling good — not always an easy feat but it’s something I’m continuously working on. Also, fresh air.
Alanna: It’s a real mix of things for me, but throughout lockdown I’ve found running, cooking, and going for a big walk and voice-noting my best friend in London has made harder days just a little easier. Like Jess, being really honest with how I’m feeling and leaning on my lovely flatmates has been super helpful in the last couple months.
Q. What’s your coffee set-up at home like?
Alanna: My glorious AeroPress my coffee-snob Dad got for me last year plus some cheeky frothed oat milk, shout out to my flatmate for owning a milk frother. And cinnamon on top.
Jess: Nothing fancy — a colourful plunger I got from the Avondale markets for three bucks. Drunk slowly whilst I procrastinate getting out of bed, with oat milk and honey always!
Q. Do you have a favourite Supreme coffee?
Alanna: Hands down it’s gotta be Nicaragua La Huella, not only does it taste delicious but 100% of the proceeds come to the MHF — shameless plug but it’s the best!
Q. Smooth or crunchy?
Alanna: 100% team crunchy.
Jess: Controversial but I’m siding with smooth.
Q. What’s your favourite snack in Auckland?
Alanna: Anything and everything from Vondel’s in Devonport but especially their chunky chips lathered in salt & vinegar.
Jess: My local, West Supply, makes the best toasties ever. Highly recommend it if you're making the trip out to Muriwai!