COVID-19 highlights New Zealand's urgent need for digital health and wellbeing services

Media Release

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Emerge Aotearoa, one of New Zealand’s largest and most well-established community mental health providers has brought forward the launch of its new social enterprise Ignite Aotearoa, created to provide New Zealand organisations with new ways of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Ignite has been fully funded by the Emerge Aotearoa Trust with the intention of it being a social enterprise in the future.

Ignite offers a range of wellbeing services, but this early release centres on its hero-product, an all-in-one online platform of curated health and wellbeing content. While most organisations now understand the link between employee wellbeing and business success, the options available to organisations have been limited. Ignite believes the way workplace wellbeing is packaged, perceived, and delivered needs to evolve in order to strengthen employee wellbeing and mental health now and in the future.

Ignite has been collaborating widely for the past two years to ensure the platform meets the needs of those people who will use it, offering a range of wellbeing services in an all-in-one online platform.

Ignite’s, Executive Director Nicola Coom, who has over 18 years’ experience in human resource and employee assistance programs said Kiwis need “fast, flexible and easy access to evidence-based advice and resources that cater to all aspects of our life.”

“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” said Coom.

The need for urgent improvements for better mental health and wellbeing outcomes for New Zealanders is one echoed by Emerge Aotearoa’s Group Chief Executive, Dr Barbara Disley who was also a member of the Mental Health Inquiry panel.

Disley said that “the outcomes of the recent Mental Health Inquiry are extremely relevant to workplaces. 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 support people to address mental health concerns early”.

In the face of isolation, Ignite provided early, free platform access to essential services and organisations whose workers have been severely impacted by COVID-19. The organisation is now opening the platform up to all workplaces to help them support their employees as they adjust to the next phase of this rapidly evolving new way of working, and the economical and psychosocial impacts of this pandemic.

During its inception, Ignite chose Auckland-based design and technology studio RUSH, to develop the technology, utilising a human-centered design approach to ensure a product with a user experience that is as impactful as possible. Terry Williams-Willcock, Creative Director at RUSH said this was achieved “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”

On the platform, users can access a resource library full of carefully curated and socially relevant content. Most notable is the first release of the ‘LiveWell Sessions’, a series of evidence-based mental-health and wellbeing videos hosted by leading New Zealand health and wellbeing experts including Jacqui Maguire, Kylie Ryan and Nikki Hart.

The video content covers challenges such as isolation, job security, finance, productivity, parenting, and strategies to deal with them. The resource library also includes links to a wide range of websites, articles, videos, podcasts and practical tools to help employees strengthen their wellbeing across all areas of life.

Registered Clinical Psychologist Jacqui Maguire is a host of several videos available within the platform. Maguire said that, in reality, some of us will be better equipped for these current challenges than others, who may find themselves facing a steep learning curve.

“As the globe continues to change at rapid pace, New Zealanders are continually required to readjust in quick response. Human agility relies on a number of factors including a safe environment, acceptance, social connection and robust physical heath. 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”.