IRD gets 'HeadStrong' about mental health

IRD is pairing Mental Health Awareness Week initiatives with wider changes throughout the organisation, focused on mental health and wellbeing.

From 8 – 14 October, IRD are encouraging everyone to use one of their scheduled breaks to go outside and do something that makes them feel good, based on this year’s theme of connecting with nature, and using the Five Ways to Workplace Wellbeing (Connect, Be Active, Give, Take Notice, Keep Learning). There will be themed messages from the communications team each day, providing ideas of how people can connect with the theme of the day, a major story on stigma and naming, and a featured news item from the Commissioner of IRD.

Throughout MHAW week and the week following, a ‘HeadStrong’ mental wellbeing challenge is running through IRD’s online Hauora Hub (run by Synergy Health). The challenge is optional, and asks people to complete a series of fun challenges (individually and together) that are proven to help mental wellbeing and resilience. There will be spot prizes for activities and personal challenges. Challenges in the past have included things such as moving slowly lots, moving quickly sometimes, going for a walk, cooking something new and fun (recipes provided), doing something fun with friends…. the challenges are a surprise!

Each site is also running activities lead by their health, safety and wellbeing committees and site mental health champions, with promotion on IRD’s internal Yammer site about all the activities that are happening.

IRD have also launched a mental health resources website for all their people, with links to great support resources. An updated leaders’ online learning page is already live, which includes links to resources to help leaders break stigma, promote wellbeing, and support staff who might be having tough times. Mental health and wellbeing champions are also being trained at each IRD site.

The agency is launching the state sector mental health resources for people leaders at their regional leaders’ forums in early November, where every leader will receive an individual copy. The general health and wellbeing guide will be put in all utility bays and lunchrooms as a resource for IRD’s 5,500 people.

In addition to their MHW initiatives, IRD are making some agency-wide changes designed to bring more focus and awareness to mental health and wellbeingA Mental Health Working Group has been created with agency-wide representation (including union partners), who are working with the Health, Safety & Wellbeing team to put together a longer-term plan around removing stigma and improving outcomes for staff.  Areas of focus are likely to include:

* senior leaders sharing their stories
* integration of management of mental health risk into project work
* talking across government about how public servants can collectively manage challenging customers and difficult calls
* telling stories of people who are flourishing with a mental illness
* looking at how they can plan for people at the centre in IRD’s future operating model.

If you would like to know more about IRD’s mental health and wellbeing initiatives contact Robyn Parkin at

For five days during Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 October), the Government Health and Safety Lead is profiling a state sector agency and their plan to raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health and wellbeing.

Check out other agencies' plans.