Wero Challenged

The mental health sector may be the last bastion where smoking is allowed. There has always been a prevailing attitude that mental health clients are already under enough stress and smoking is a great way to relieve that stress. It used to be a fairly normal occurrence to see mental health staff and clients share cigarette time together. Observationally at least it would seem that the smoking rates for both staff and client within mental health are higher than that of general population. It would take a team of brave souls indeed to implement a smoking cessation programme within this environment.

Enter the WERO based Challenge. A Wero based challenge is a fun stop smoking competition that allows participants to raise money for a good cause. The teams work together over 3 months and have proven to be one of the most successful quitting programmes to date.

For an ambitious project such as this required many organisations, many volunteers, many participants, lots moving parts and a massive logistical challenge. This is the first mental health and addictions mass quitting programme in New Zealand and possibly the world” says Breviss Wolfgramm, lead coordinator of the WERO challenge. “We manage to form 3 pools, 31 teams consisting of 168 individual, that’s a great achievement in itself”.

Berni McBride a lead navigator said “we want to demonstrate that as long as there is support, people with mental illness and or addictions can quit. Kotahitanga or coming together is the journey of recovery in mental health services and by using this same approach, all people can become smokefree.”

This 12 week WERO challenge has only just finished and it was decided to present the prize giving and results on World Smoke Free Day. “In September last year we did a trial and even we were overwhelmed at the results. Over a 70% quit rate for the mental health sector” says Breviss. “its been challenging on every level, challenging to organise, challenging to quit and challenging the very paradigm that smoking and mental health is normal”.

The prize giving day itself was an unimaginable success. The Auckland City Council gifted their premises with the Auckland Town Hall to allow this to happen and the results were extremely positive. Thanks to everyone involved.