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Social enterprise Ignite Aotearoa sets site on mental health

Mental health provider Emerge Aotearoa is introducing its latest social enterprise ‘Ignite Aotearoa’ which will provide New Zealand organisations with new ways to help support their employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

Funded entirely by the Emerge Aotearoa Trust, the initiative was created with the intention of it being a social enterprise in the future. Ignite Aotearoa has been collaborating for the past two years to ensure its hero product, an all in one online platform of health and wellbeing content, meets the needs of the people who use it. The enterprise was designed to improve the way workplace wellbeing is being delivered and perceived, and in turn, improve the overall health of employees now and in the future.

Ignite’s executive director Nicola Coom, who has had more than 18 years of human resource experience, says Kiwi’s need fast accessibility to evidence-lead advice and resources.

“Workforces in New Zealand currently have few options available to them outside of the traditional EAP for proactively supporting their staff’s wellbeing. We want to see that change and are offering an alternative, we have built a platform that brings everything together to make accessing support simpler.”

Emerge Aotearoa chief executive Dr Barbara Disley, who is a member of the Mental Health Inquiry panel, also believes there is an urgent need for mental health improvement in New Zealand. She says the outcome of the recent Mental Health Inquiry was extremely relevant to the workplace.

“What we need to be doing is to support people to get access a whole lot earlier and to do that within a community context. The workplace is a really important community context and therefore is a place that can both support people to address mental health concerns early.”

As the country is currently in lockdown, Ignite had provided an early, free access platform access to essential service workers and organisations whose mental health may have been affected by covid-19. Now, the platform is accessible to all workplaces to help them support employees during this uncertain and stressful time.

Using a human-centered design approach, Ignite teamed up with Auckland based deisgn and technology studio RUSH to create a product with user experience that is as impactful as possible.

“Via interviews with health and wellbeing experts and through our lean-agile development approach, we were able to continuously learn how users are consuming the platform and its content,” says RUSH creative director Terry Williams-Willcock.

Ignite’s platform provides a vast range of carefully created and socially relevant content. Within that content is the ‘Livewell sessions’, made up of evidence based mental health and wellbeing information, hosted by leading New Zealand well being experts.

The video series includes challenges such as isolation, job security, finance, productivity, parenting and ways to cope with these challenges. Users can also access a wide range of websites, articles, videos, podcasts and practical tools to help strengthen their wellbeing across all aspects of their life.

Hosting several videos, registered clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire says some people will be better prepared for these challenges than others, who may need extra help and advice.

“As the globe continues to change at rapid pace, New Zealanders are continually required to readjust in quick response. For all of us, adjustment will likely induce a level of stress, grief and opportunity, although we may need time and support to realise this,”says Maguire.

“Right now, productivity, collaboration, creativity and innovation are essential. It is a time when it is most important to have leaders and employees who are resilient and agile. As businesses develop and redevelop strategies to outlast COVID-19, supporting mental health and wellbeing requires a feature spot.”

The plan to digitise and modernise employee wellbeing support will continue over the coming years, however Ignite’s priority at this current time is to assist people who have been affected mentally by the pandemic.

The full platform will be available next month, which will include a booking facility for a virtual talk-therapy session, a digital self-assessment wellbeing tool and more. Health and wellbeing support, planning and therapy will eventually be accessible seven days a week from devices.

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