Gerard Campbell |

As New Zealanders navigate their way through the challenging COVID-19 environment, St John is spearheading a pilot programme designed to provide mental health coping mechanisms for young people.

Earlier this month, St John’s Community Education team launched the Whātuia te Waiora or Weaving Wellbeing initiative in six primary and intermediate schools across New Zealand.

“The tools this programme offers will provide valuable coping mechanisms to help our tamariki to build resilience and coping skills to keep their heads above water, not just in the current climate but into the future,” says Jacci Tatnell, St John Head of Community Education.

St John identified a need for the mental wellness pilot programme in response to the Government’s Child and Wellbeing Strategy that was released in August last year. The report’s findings noted a need for more resources to enhance the resilience and mental wellbeing of primary and intermediate age school children.

The Whātuia te Waiora programme is delivered through 10 one-hour sessions and was developed by CORE education in partnership with St John and included input from St John Wellbeing and Psychological Health Manager Adele Saunders and the expertise of a positive psychology practitioner. Philosophies of the programme are also based on Te Whare Tapa Wha model of health to embrace Te Ao Māori.

“Some of the key takeaways from the course include learning what character strength is and how this differs from values and skills, discovering how to use your strengths and when to call on them in times of challenge. It’s also about developing awareness of thoughts and ways to boost positive emotions,” says Ms Tatnell.   

The first sessions of the pilot have been delivered in Auckland, Timaru and Taranaki, and sessions are planned in Southland through St John’s partnership with Central Otago/Southland electricity network PowerNet.

Positive feedback illustrating the value of the programme has been received, including a teacher who says, “this couldn’t have happened at a better time” and a pupil who says they felt “calmer and clearer” after completing a session.

“The responses we’ve received from our educators is that pupils have been incredibly insightful and receptive to the strategies being taught and teachers can see the incredible long-term benefits for tamariki,” says Ms Tatnell. St John hopes to be able to roll out the programme nationally in the near future.

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Gerard Campbell

St John Communications Advisor

M: 027 567 2083, E:

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