Award-winning mental health program: 'This essentially saved my life'

This is what the Department of Internal Affairs successful mental health programme looks like

Award-winning mental health program: 'This essentially saved my life'

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has more than 2,300 staff in a wide range of jobs across New Zealand.

Their mātāpono (values) are manaakitanga (showing kindness, respect and hospitality towards others), whanaungatanga (relationships), kotahitanga (strength in unity), and he tāngata (a belief that people are important). These values underpin the DIA ‘Wellness Roadmap.’

The roadmap includes the Mental Health and Wellbeing Hub, dedicated leadership support, employee education and a network of culture champions.

Indeed, the DIA has won the Highly Commended at the 2019 Diversity Awards NZ.

The judging panel said the DIA has developed an initiative with a network of champions that has infiltrated its large workforce across a mix of role types, levels and regions.

One of the keys to success has been the organisation’s commitment to giving middle managers the extra time and resources they need to confidently support a multi-faceted programme.

It is accessible by all staff through the company intranet, includes fact sheets, tips, tools and templates that are based around the Mental Health Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing at Work Toolkit.

These methods are: connecting, taking notice, giving, keeping learning, and being active. The goal of the Hub is to support leaders and their teams in implementing these key strategies for wellbeing in their daily lives.

The Hub was launched in 2018 with a video message from Chief Executive Paul James, who underscored the importance of open discussion about mental health and wellness within the organisation.

Early in the deployment of the programme, it was identified that leaders needed support in bringing the Five Ways into their teams, and DIA rolled out face-to-face workshops to help grow leaders’ understanding.

This workshop has been attended by nearly two thirds of leaders within DIA.

The organisation has also created Working Well workshops for employees, which help people learn how to take care of their own mental health and wellbeing at work as well as at home. Importantly, these workshops have been available to employees in regional locations as well as in cities.

The continued implementation of the Wellness Roadmap at DIA is overseen by the internal Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group, chaired by the Principal Advisor Health and Safety and supported by the organisation’s Pūmanawa Tangata (HR) team.

The Working Group has representatives from each of DIA’s six branches and includes people from a mix of roles. This group gives feedback on initiatives as they are developed, leads activities which are implemented, and role models principles and behaviours within the organisation.

There is also a group of more than 30 culture champions across DIA who promote resources and activities within their branches.

Instead of an annual engagement survey, DIA takes a continuous listening approach which gathers feedback on relevant topics as they arise. The January 2019 survey was based on mental health and wellbeing.

The survey saw increased participation, as well as very promising results about mental health and wellbeing in the organisation, though there is still work to be done.

One employee who responded to the survey says that while a number of organisations they have worked in only pay lip service to mental health and wellbeing, DIA is doing well above the minimum to support its people.

Jerome Aloe, a senior advisor in the Organisational Strategy and Performance Branch, initiated regular lunchtime get-togethers for employees to meet and work towards personal fitness goals and re-energise their bodies and minds.

Moreover, another employee told this story: “I really appreciate DIA’s push for increased visibility around self-care and mental health. Because of this, one of my managers approached me because he thought I seemed a bit down.

“This essentially saved my life.”

Recent articles & video

Why the pandemic will forever change D&I

How iconic fast food brand Jollibee kept staff happy and hopeful

Qantas loses Federal Court challenge against TWU over outsourcing of 2,000 jobs

HRD reveals 5-Star HR Software award winners for 2021

Most Read Articles

How did COVID impact New Zealand recruitment?

Employees divided over business incentives to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Why HR needs to target high-earners to truly improve diversity and inclusion