Mental Health Week 2016

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week

1 in 5 New Zealanders are diagnosed with a mental illness, including myself, meaning every New Zealander comes into contact with someone who is affected. That is why I feel it’s very important that we talk about and discuss mental illness, breaking down stereotypes, stigmas and barriers.

The focus for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Connect with Nature for Good Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Mental health awareness week 2016

“Research has shown that spending time in nature is great for mental and physical health. Evidence proves it makes us happier, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety, improves concentration, buffers against stress, makes our lives meaningful and reduces health inequalities related to poverty.”

As part of a Mental Health Awareness Week there is a “lockout” organised for lunchtime today. We’re all encourage to get outside, rain or shine, and into the fresh air.

Being in nature helps me unwind, relax and practice mindfulness, which is still something I am working on.

I’m lucky to work for Christchurch City Libraries and to be surrounded by excellent resources. There are some other fantastic resources out there.  Here are some of my favourites:

Cover of Taming the black dogTaming the Black Dog: a Guide to Overcoming Depression, Bev Aisbett

A witty and simple guide.  You can have a laugh while also getting helpful tips to managing depression.

The Mindfulness Toolbox, Don Altman

Although this is intended for mental health practitioners it is full of practical, achievable activities for those using self help.  I love that I can choose and print out one of the over 40 handouts and work through it at my own pace.

Cover of Why can't I stop?Why Can’t I Stop? Reclaiming your Life From a Behavioral Addiction, Jon E. Grant

An interesting look at behavioural addiction’s (gambling, internet, OCD etc).  Offering insight and helpful advice.

Reading in Mind Book Scheme, of which the Christchurch City Libraries is a proud partner.

The scheme recommends books, eAudiobooks, eBooks or DVDs about a wide range of mental health issues. The books are selected with the advice of mental health professionals and the Mental Health Foundation of NZ.

Reading in mind logo

More information and help with mental health

Outreach & Learning Team

Beat those Winter Blues

Are you finding the gloomy days and cold nights are getting you down? I’ve come up with some blue-busting winter warmers to drag you out of the doldrums:


There. I said it. It’s essential. Yes, I can hear you moan! Nothing warms the body up and produces happy brain chemicals like moving. It doesn’t have to be a marathon, a gentle stroll can do it. Christchurch City Council’s Sport and Recreation page has walks, fitness centres, bike, beaches and boating, activities, leisure clubs for older adults pages full of info and contacts.

Find a local club in CINCH or simply walk the dog, dance around the house to some cheerful tunes or get exercising with friends.

Get out of the house

Now this is a simple one. Withdrawing from day to day social contact with your fellow humans can have a negative effect on your mood. Yes, it’s cold out but there are warm places to go such as your local library! Ensure that you socialise with your friends and family regularly or find a social group on CINCH.

Brighten up your house

Let more light in by opening curtains and trimming trees. Ensure your body gets light by sitting by the window. Less light in winter can affect your mood.

Help others

Volunteer your time. Helping others is great for our own mental health. It gets you out of the house, socialising and you may even get some exercise too.

I just can’t do it!

Is depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress stopping you from having a positive outlook and fulfilling life? Visit your doctor/counsellor and these organisations to get help getting your life back.

More resources from our catalogue

All The Bright Places

If you like…

Cover of Looking For Alaska
Looking For Alaska
The Fault In Our Stars
The Fault In Our Stars
Cover of Side Effects May Vary
Side Effects May Vary








then you will want to read…

Cover of All the Bright Places
All the Bright Places

Meet Theodore Finch and Violet Markey in this poignant story about life, death, wanderings, and Post-It notes.

The story begins with Finch talking Violet down from the ledge of the school’s bell tower where she is frozen with fear. The year before Violet lost her sister and best friend in a car crash on an icy road. She has been overcome with the grief and lost her way in the world.  By lunchtime everyone thinks Violet talked Finch off the ledge as he is the one who talks about death, is on probation at school, and is known as the school freak.

For a school project they team up to discover the natural wonders of their local area and so begin the “wanderings”. As Violet gets to know Finch her world finally begins to grow again. Whilst Finch feels alive in Violet’s company his own world seems to be diminishing, his mind full of racing and dark thoughts.

This is unique storytelling as it deals with suicide and depression in a sensitive and open way. The book is full of hidden gems which lighten and create humorous moments along the way. Both characters love to read and there are many book references which bring a smile. Finch plays the guitar, loves music, and Split Enz is referenced as a favourite band. The Post-It notes are clever and witty and add another layer to understanding. The wanderings draw Finch and Violet closer and can make for a teary read at times. A small annoyance is the plot centres exclusively round the two main characters with friends and family less developed than expected.

The best thing about All the Bright Places is that the story connects with the heart and lingers there. It’s an insightful book. Near the end Finch sends a heartfelt message to Violet which captures the essence of this read.

You are all the colours in one, at full brightness

P. S. In case you have to wait for All the Bright Places, why not try one of the books suggested in our If You Like… The Fault in Our Stars list?


Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

In my case it wasn’t Ms Woolf but her namesakes. After all I’d been raised on European children’s literature and these critters featured a lot. Admittedly never in the Secret Seven or Famous Five, but I had a fertile imagination and the night time was when those boyos promoted themselves to driving cars and generally getting round on two legs. Leading to a terrified wail in the night.

Cover of Phobias or The Way of The WorrierFears, irrational or otherwise – a lot of us have them. Fear of spiders, arachnophobia. Why and when did spiders produce such fear in some of us? Robert the Bruce wasn’t turned off from his close encounter, far from it. And of course there’s “aratnophobia”. I’ve seen someone clear a metre-high-plus bench top in one leap, to escape a rat. Needless to say the rat was legging it in the other direction equally as terrified. In his case quite rightly, as he bought it in the end and she came down off the bench.

Then there’s Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, which reduced parts of a generation to a jellied mess whenever a large flock of starlings or similar gathered nearby.

Cover of Freeing Your Child From AnxietyIt has been suggested that one in six of us suffer depression or a chronic anxiety disorder and there are plenty of books in our libraries on the subject that would suggest this might not be too far off the truth. In Phobias or the Way of the Worrier Tim Weinberg looks at the range of phobias – from common to bizarre. He examines scientific and psychological research to make sense of this strange world. And he shares his own journey in overcoming his fear of heights.

Anxiety, fears and phobias are not all limited to adults either. Freeing Your Child from Anxiety has easy, fun, and effective tools for teaching children to outsmart their worries and take charge of their fears.

Christchurch City Libraries have Conquer Your Fears and Phobias for Teens currently on order.  Holds or reserves can be placed on this book now.

Nerves and butterflies are fine — they’re a physical sign that you’re mentally ready and eager. You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that’s the trick. ~Steve Bull

Keep Learning: Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. The focus for this year is Keep Learning, and what better place than the library for inspiration!

Evidence shows continuing to learn throughout life can help improve and maintain our mental wellbeing. Learning can boost self-confidence and self-esteem, help build a sense of purpose and connect us with others. Studies have shown that ongoing learning can be linked with greater satisfaction and optimism and improved ability to get the most from life.

Learning isn’t about going to University and aiming for that Ph.D. in Neuroscience (although that is a worthy aim); it’s also about connecting with other people, having fun and achieving something… anything!

Cover of Everyone Can Learn to Ride a BicycleIt doesn’t need to cost money and may not take up much time depending on your circumstances, but it is a way to reach out and learn at the same time. This earlier post from our blog has some great ideas for lifelong learning.

Our CINCH database is also a good place to start. Every type of skill or hobby imaginable is listed and I am always amazed at just how many people out there are willing to share their knowledge and passions with others.

However perhaps you or someone you know is at a really low point. I have always found reading a good way to find solace and help – to read that others are struggling with similar things is comforting, and learning new ways and ideas to help has at times been a lifesaver. If reading feels too hard then our audio material may be worth a try. Listening takes far less concentration and there is the added bonus of a friendly voice.

Our website has links to various organisations that work in the area of mental health that can offer support when needed, and here are some new titles on mental health that have just arrived on our shelves.

Cover of The Mood Repair Toolkit Cover of Change Your Life With CBT Cover of Overcoming Shock Cover of The Noonday Demon Cover of When Depression Hurts Your Relationship

Christmas – It’s a mixed bag this year

At the risk of bringing a bit of a damper to the celebrations, I think it’s important to acknowledge that for many people Christmas is a bit of a mixed bag this year.  On the one hand there is the chance to celebrate, and to kick back with friends and family; on the other there is the ongoing nature of daily lives affected by damaged homes, uncertainty and loss. It really is a time to take care of ourselves and each other.  Perhaps you are feeling overly anxious, a bit grouchy, stressed, overwhelmed, sad, or all of the above!  Considering the year we have had all of these feelings are completely understandable.

The self-help section of the library has some fantastic material that could help.  Sometimes ‘self help’ evokes bad press,  but in this collection there is plenty of good solid sensible advice for those of us in need of a bit of care and understanding.

Don’t forget to use our CINCH database if you feel that you need to find someone, or an agency with whom you could talk to. Our Earthquake recovery page on the library website might be worth looking at again, as it has many agencies that are still working actively in Christchurch.

You might also want to check out some of these titles:

All blacks don’t cry by John Kirwan.  Personally I think this man should be nominated for a knighthood!  A very personal story that normalises depression and offers hope.

Dealing with depression by Caroline Shreeve.  Some books on this subject proclaim one approach as providing the magic cure – this one gives a good overview of a number of strategies  including medication and alternative therapies.

Cover of "5 survivors"The mindful way through anxiety by Susan Orsillo and Lizabeth Roemer.  The authors describe how to gain awareness of anxious feelings without letting them escalate.  Lots of stories, self-quizzes and step-by-step exercises.

5 survivors: personal stories of healing from PTSD and traumatic events by Tracy Stecker. Theauthor outlines the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the progress of each survivor.  Those living with untreated PTSD may see themselves in these stories and realize they are not alone. It is also useful for friends and family of those who have been  impacted by the trauma, and aims to give more intimate understanding of a loved one’s struggle and pain.

All the leaves are brown … SAD is in the air

Couple the season of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) with the post-earthquake blues and it’s no surprise that many of us here in Christchurch are feeling low and that, as the days get shorter, our tempers do too!

The library has many resources which can help:

  • Books on depression and how to treat it Cover
  • A  smorgasbord of resources on self-help techniques, including a number of freely-downloadable OverDrive audiobooks and e-books
  • A list of links in our Internet Gateway to reputable information about depression and to agencies which can assist
  • Contact details in CINCH of local support groups and counselling services, as well as of clubs, community organisations and continuing education providers – as John Kirwan reminds us on the TV ads, the company of others is great to help us find a way through

Earthquake counselling

Don’t forget also that free counselling continues to be available for those affected by the earthquakes. The key number to call is 0800-777 846. More contacts are available from the Webhealth Canterbury, CERA and Ministry of Social Development websites.

For the month of June, Relationship Services Whakawhanaungatanga, in conjunction with Language Line, is also offering free earthquake counselling for people who speak English as a second language. Face to face counselling is available with the assistance of interpreters over the phone.

Language Line provides interpreting in 41 languages, so pass the message on and encourage any of your friends, neighbours and colleagues who may be new to New Zealand and feeling somewhat isolated, to take advantage of this opportunity and engage in some pag-uusap, conversación or good old-fashioned talking. (Apologies for the language-butchering; it’s all Google Translate’s fault!)