Pilot underway: From left, Southern Wellbeing Trust members Mary Mansell and Claire Stewart, co-founder Anna Dorsey, Central Lakes Trust boss Susan Finlay, and trust co-founder Tim Rigg


A new Queenstown charitable trust with a focus on mental health has received a $40,000 funding boost from Central Lakes Trust.

The Southern Wellbeing Trust was co-founded in September by local GP Tim Rigg and health communications specialist Anna Dorsey after they saw the pressures Covid was putting on local health and social services.

‘‘We could see first-hand how big a challenge this was going to be for our communities,’’ Dorsey says.

‘‘Not just the risk to our physical health but the far-reaching and ongoing threat to people’s mental health and wellbeing.’’

Trustees are Dorsey, Rigg and Queenstown Medical Centre boss Ashley Light, who have since worked with a team of volunteers to develop new strategies to help prevent mental illness and promote good health across the district, collaborating with local agencies, the community and providers.

‘‘Prevention is at the heart of what we do,’’ Dorsey says.

‘‘If we can help our population to stay well — and there are lots of ways we can do that — then everyone benefits.’’

The first thing on the hit list is raising ‘‘mental health literacy’’, with a pilot project focused on mental health education already underway.

It’s being led by members of the communities who’ll deliver workshops to their peers.

The CLT grant means it can run for a full year, ensuring more locals will increase their understanding of mental health, learn how to protect it, understand signs and symptoms
of mental illness and learn what to do if they’re worried about someone else.

CLT chief executive Susan Finlay says the Covid pandemic’s had ‘‘unprecedented impacts’’ on the social and economic well being of residents, especially in the Queenstown Lakes, and one of the trust’s focuses over the past year has been on better supporting  communities to ‘‘navigate the challenges of the post-Covid landscape’’.

She’s hoping the Southern Wellbeing Trust’s programme will be rolled out to the wider regions in the patch.

The trust’s also got funding from Lottery Community and Lottery Covid-19 Community Wellbeing Fund, the Wakatipu Community Foundation’s Great est Needs Fund and Ministry of Social Development.