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growing mental health leaders

Celebrating our Tall Trees – Highlights from the Rākau Roroa Hui, November 2019

Huge shout-out to all the generous donors and sponsors of our Growing Tall Trees hui last Thursday. Thank you so much for your support – we couldn’t have done it without you!

William Buck New Zealand, Kings Seeds, Countdown Supermarkets,The Story Board (Tanya, Michael and Ryan), Tatiana Harper Photography, Whoa Studios, Greg Ward Media Training – NZ, Socius Media Training and Media Consultancy (Mary Lambie), Health Promotion Agency, Frozen Funds Charitable Trust, Like Minds, Like Mine, Stewart Allan, Huia Hamon, Rob Mokaraka, Anne Bateman (and the givealittle fundraiser), The Collective AND everyone that donated to Changing Minds givealittle page.

What is Rākau Roroa?

Rākau Roroa is growing mental health leaders for the future!

Rākau Roroa will train and support a growing network of people who want to use their personal lived experience of mental distress and recovery to inspire others.

By the end of the training Rākau Roroa will enable people to tell their own story and to champion positive mental health messages in their communities.

Why get involved in Rākau Roroa?

If you are looking for an opportunity to create a meaningful difference for other people who are going through difficult times then this is for you!

This is a unique opportunity to learn and engage with other people who also want to make a difference. You will be supported through the whole Rākau Roroa process by mentors who have been selected based on their experiences and knowledge. And best of all it is completely free as the Rākau Roroa initiative is run by Changing Minds and funded through the Like Minds, Like Mine programme.

What do I need to apply for Rākau Roroa?

You are someone with lived experience of mental distress and recovery, who is confident that with the right training and support, you will be able to positively work with your community to reduce discrimination to benefit other people with their own experiences of mental distress.

You have supports in place emotionally and professionally to be open about your experiences and have some ideas of how you would like to use the knowledge and skills you gain from being a part of Rākau Roroa.

Who are our Rākau Roroa regional leaders?

Rākau Roroa has developed a network of regional leaders who are passionate about supporting Tall Trees in their region and are who our Tall Trees go to for up-to-date information about the Rākau Roroa programme. Our regional leaders are:

  • Northland | Vicky Jean Stephens
  • Auckland | Samantha Adams
  • Waikato/ Hawkes Bay | Karyn Quin-Smith
  • Wellington, Wairarapa and Manawatu | Gail Cossar
  • Mid Canterbury | Sara Luff
  • West Coast |Toni Huls
  • Otago | Kelli-Anne Te Huki

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1. What is the course outline?
    The course is comprised of 7 modules – exploring human rights, discrimination, and wellbeing.
  • 2. What are the expected outcomes from the programme? E.g. How will those trained use the new skills?
    We are hoping that most applicants will bring their own ideas of how to apply these skills in their own communities using the skills and passions they bring to the programme. Be it as a public speaker, an artist, a musician, a workplace policy maker or anything! It is not for us to dictate what you do with your knowledge, only that you have the confidence and skills to be grounded in the core messages based on best practice that reduce stigma and discrimination and increase help seeking and inclusion.
    Some may in the future go into a pool of people that Like Minds, Like Mine and the National Depression Initiative call on to represent us in the media, and some may go on to support others, but most will use their knowledge and be supported to run the projects they want to.
  • 3. Where will the training be held?
    Currently we have completed all our face-to-face trainings across Aotearoa New Zealand and our next training opportunities will be online using our specially built digital platform.
  • 4. Is the course designed to just offer new skills and set up a network for those trained or is there an ongoing expectation that there will be ongoing work in our communities?
    Yes (We hope so – but that work is up to the participant and what they want to do, their mentor can guide them and there may be project funding they can apply for in the future)
  • 5. What to find out more or contact us regarding the project ?
    Email Tamara on


Why the name Rākau Roroa?

In discussions with Changing Minds Kaumātua (Ngāti Whātua) and our Māori partners, the name Rākau Roroa emerged which roughly translates as Tall Trees.

This has connotations of the strength, resilience and leadership of people with lived experience rising from the roots to the branches of our whenua connecting and supporting one another to grow.

Is this a Like Minds, Like Mine initiative or a National Depression Initiative?

It supports both programmes.

Rākau Roroa is being created to support the aims and messaging of both the Like Minds, Like Mine and National Depression Initiative (NDI) programmes.  This initiative supports the aims of both programmes – ending stigma and discrimination and encouraging conversations to increase support and help-seeking. Leaders will be able to identify with one or both programmes and will be supported to use their experiential wisdom to counter discrimination and encourage help-seeking as part of the activities they engage in.

Will this initiative be a repeat of past work like the “Speakers Bureau”?

New Zealand’s Lived Experience movement has a rich and vibrant history of initiatives such as the “Speakers Bureau”, “Speak Your Mind” and “First Voices”.

We are learning from the magic of the past – from the strengths as well as the weaknesses.  The “Speakers Bureau” is just one of the incarnations we are looking at for what worked well and where we can improve.

The Rākau Roroa initiative, however, is much broader than public-speaking. Providing more opportunities for people from all walks of life and industries who have a lived experience to use their wisdom and the wisdom of others to address discrimination and encourage helping-seeking in their communities, locally, culturally or demographically.

The initiative will identify people with existing skills, connections and project ideas and provide them with the right knowledge, messages and support to counter discrimination and encourage help-seeking within their field of interest.

How will Rākau Roroa maintain a ‘grassroots’ focus and ensure grassroots voices are key drivers?

The Rākau Roroa initiative aims to include people with lived experience of mental distress from many walks of life, not just those already working in peer roles.

Of key importance will be the recruitment, support and training processes that participants are involved in as they become part of the Rākau Roroa whānau.

To make this as ‘grassroots’ focused as possible, Changing Minds have committed to a co-design process to set up these three fundamental processes.

What is Co-design? 

Co-design reflects a fundamental change in traditional service design, and is a new approach to programme design.

Rather than the traditional model of the funder designing the programme in isolation from the communities in which it will be delivered, co-design ensures that fundamental processes are designed by those at grassroots level.

Changing Minds are committed to ensuring the co-design philosophy is maintained for design, development and improvement throughout the duration of the initiative.

Does the Rākau Roroa initiative include addictions?

People with addictions are not specifically a priority area for the Like Minds, Like Mine and National Depression Initiative programmes.

In saying that, we are aware that mental health and addictions often do not sit as separate experiences and the programme will be inclusive.

There will be opportunities over the duration of the project to provide sector information which identifies gaps and opportunities for the future.

Our Journey So Far . . .

Who are our Rākau Roroa Tall Trees?

Dan Goodwin

Breathing new life into adversity – nzherald

Living with schizophrenia isn’t that bad. Mostly. Kind of… It’s like crossing the road with a sensible parent. It looks one way then the other then gets hit by the car anyway.

So what happens when you get to the party, excited for the vodka cranberry and the car is in the driveway?

Breathe is a story of dancing in the thick of it; connection, play, and what makes us human.

Kira Evenden

Kira to become youth mental health advocate – nelson weekly

A Garin College student, who took her speech about mental health online after she was not allowed to speak it at the school’s annual arts festival, is now training to become a youth mental health advocate.

Lisa Brickell

Mockingbird — A black comedy about motherhood and mental health

Based on the true stories of women admitted to psychiatric hospitals after child birth, Lisa Brickell and Siri Embla weave a tale spanning four generations, multiple characters, and a host of dubious and devilish alter egos. Their tongue-in-cheek rendering is both dark and horrendously funny.

Natalie Lanfear

A book to give to and a book to take from to help your mental health – Taranaki Daily News

[T]he 25-year-old mental health advocate is creating a book for Taranaki youth to open up about their mental health in the form of a poem or short story.

Mental illness within youth has been on the rise nationally for the past decade and Lanfear has spent the past four years being an active listener for those who are struggling.

Matthew Nuttall

Financial impact of mental health on individuals, and the country –

Experience mental distress so acute you need treatment, and lose your income, and not only is the income not covered, but often the treatment you need isn’t available either, so you have to self-fund it, if you want it.

Karyn Quin-Smith (left) and artist Vee Hoy (right)

Karyn Quin-Smith

Pieces of Me Art Exhibition

When Karyn Quin-Smith finally decided to become a Tall Tree it was after experiencing a lot of discrimination and stigma – “especially from work colleagues, who happen to be health care professionals like me”.

Ardon England

Pride Box

Ardon England’s main motivation for becoming a Tall Tree was to help those people who had similar experiences to himself. “I want to help people that struggle with the same things I have,” he says. “If I can make someone’s journey that little bit easier, that is the biggest reward of being a Tall Tree.”

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