The coach approach to mental fitness

Written by: Reuben Wickstead

Two years ago, Dr. Louise Schofield stood beside a frightened mother and her suicidal daughter as they desperately reached out to the Mental Health Crisis team in search of help. Instead, all they received was the advice to call police if they thought the daughter was at ‘immediate risk’. As Louise recounts, “her daughter did not need the police, her daughter needed hope. Hope that things will get better and that these terrible feelings will pass.” Dr. Schofield also recalls the anger that swelled inside her that night towards the system that had failed this young woman. 

As a mother and a champion for positive change in the healthcare system, Louise already had increasing concern over the direction of mental health and wellbeing in Aotearoa. This comes as no surprise, as the statistics regarding mental wellbeing in New Zealand are undeniably staggering. More than a quarter of all New Zealanders are reported to have poor mental health, with this number continuing to worsen across various age groups; a situation made even bleaker when paired with the fact that it takes about 10 years on average to get treatment for depression and anxiety – two of the most commonly diagnosed disorders. That is if people get the right help at all, with two in three New Zealanders never receiving adequate mental health care. 

In keeping with the ideals of PREKURE – a social enterprise co-founded by Louise and her husband Prof. Grant Schofield that champions a prevention before cure approach to medicine – Louise decided “getting mad was not the answer but that giving people the knowledge and tools of how they can build their own mental fitness was.” 

Louise and Grant, not content to rest on their laurels, channelled this into the creation of their 21-Day Mental Fitness Program. Centred around seven key levers (eat, move, sleep, breathe, cold water, joy and self talk) the program aims to inspire resiliency and agency in its participants by providing them with strategies to help stay on top of their mental health. As Louise succinctly puts it, “by doing the 21-day mental fitness program, you will feel good more often.” 

Louise does not shy away from the unique challenges that come with the development of a mental fitness program such as this, perhaps most difficult of which being the delicate handling of the idea that, as Louise puts it, “although poor mental health is not your fault it is still your responsibility.” If conveyed without proper care, an idea like this can absolutely serve to worsen someone’s already poor mental health; and yet an understanding of it is crucial to the program’s success. In an effort to overcome this Louise and Grant shaped the program to be as simple as possible, allowing people to easily implement strategies to address their mental health proactively and, in doing so, come to this understanding in a natural way. 

Not content with simply creating their 21-day program, Louise and PREKURE are going a step further in their quest for meaningful change, offering the course for free during the month of April to anyone interested. Whether you or someone you know is battling with poor mental health or is simply looking for a way to distil even more joy from their lives, this is the perfect chance to start taking real control of your mental fitness. For more information or to sign up visit:

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