1 March 2019
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) won the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Award at last night’s Human Resources Institute of New Zealand (HRINZ) Awards at Sky City in Auckland.
HRINZ holds the awards annually to recognise excellence within the New Zealand human resources community.
The award won by the NZDF Integrated Wellness and Mental Health team recognises excellence and outstanding achievements in the health, safety and wellbeing of employees in their workplace.
NZDF Chief Mental Health Officer Colonel Clare Bennett said the team’s initiative was a programme focussed on improving the mental health and wellbeing of the NZDF’s people.
“We are a subset of the New Zealand population, with similar rates of mental ill-health as everyday New Zealanders,” Colonel Bennett said. “Plus, the nature of our work and military lifestyle can place unique demands on our personnel and their families. We were hearing that our people were sometimes reluctant to ask for help.”
The traits that made the NZDF successful as a fighting force – being strong, self-reliant and in control – could also make them vulnerable because it made it harder to ask for help, Colonel Bennett said.
“So this was and still is NZDF’s challenge – to decrease mental ill health and increase help-seeking behaviour.”
The team’s focus was to shift from a treatment-focussed model of care to a comprehensive health and wellness model that placed importance on mental, physical, social and spiritual health.
The NZDF also developed a range of resources to equip its people with the information and tools to recognise and manage wellbeing challenges, and to know when it was time to seek help and how to find help.
“These tools have been shared across the Government sector and many other organisations,” Colonel Bennett said.
“The programme has turned strategy into tangible outputs – new policies, practices, projects, and accessible tools and resources, and a strong focus on how leadership influences the culture for positive mental wellbeing.”
The result had been improved mental health and wellbeing, and an increase in help-seeking behaviour, she said.
“The NZDF is still at the beginning of its health and wellbeing journey, but we are celebrating the progress that has been made so far.”