Our speaker Andy Ellis, is one of our newest members who was inducted today! He is responsible for running about 30 different government websites related to social harm and mental health issues and he has taken a leadership role across a number of different health campaigns.
As an IT professional with real life experience of our mental health system, he brings his skill set of software development, marketing and digital technologies to help to ease the strain on the current mental health system. But how can technology help? One in four of us experience mental health challenges at some stage in their lives. It’s part of being human. But we have such a shortage of health professionals with long wait times for services, using technology for good can reduce the demand and ease some of the pressure.
Andy has been involved in a project called Small Steps https://www.smallsteps.org.nz/. This is a free and interactive collection of micro-tools or micro-experiences accessible on a cellphone or computer. The project was launched in April 2021 and while it doesn’t replace the personal one on one connection, it does provide useful and practical options. The programme has reached over 200,000 New Zealanders over last 8 months.

The platform has been developed in Te Reo Maori and English and in order to remove one of the barriers to access, a deal has been struck with all the Telcos across New Zealand through the sponsored data initiative. In short, even if you don’t have credit in your cellphone – you have free access to the videos and tools.

Andy is keen to support the innovative New Zealand tech sector. They have partnered with a startup Clearhead, who have created a ‘Tinder for Psychologists’ - a system that has a large directory of psychologist and support workers with different specialities. People seeking help can book an
appointment - sometimes that day - with a trained professional rather than wait the seven to ten weeks through the health system.

Another initiative includes training for leaders – using technology to run a facilitator free two hour workshop learning about dealing with stress and uncertainty. Learning how to support your team and workmates who might be going through mental health struggles. His team has recently been awarded a contract with Zespri New Zealand to contribute to their ‘Circuit Breaker Day’. Everyone in the whole organisation across nine countries are stopping work for the day (before the beginning of the kiwifruit harvest) to build understanding and capacity in identifying and managing mental health and resilience within their workforce. Now that’s pretty powerful!

Andy has a number of ideas of how to improve mental health in New Zealand. I’m sure he would be very happy to share his thoughts – and it’s a great way to get to know him.
Brenda Lazelle