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CUP OF CONVERSATION: Ending Mental Illness Stigma, One Coffee At A Time

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

It was 2019 when I began to feel everything changing. It was the small, insignificant things as much as it was the big and obvious shifts in mood. I was more inspired, motivated and creative. The light started streaming in - my mind was becoming a wonderful place to be again.

It was my own journey with depression that inspired the Cup of Conversation campaign. Not only because I wanted more people to be interacting with and talking about mental illness in a non-confrontational setting - but also because our strained health system benefits from any proactive approaches to improving our mental health landscape that are on offer.

By no means is Cup of Conversation a big and bold campaign. In fact, we always intended it to be quite the opposite. Subtle, creative and eye-catching - poised atop the machines of your local cafe amidst your morning rush to work. Many people don’t have time to incorporate mental health conversation and checking in on themselves and others into their daily routines - so Cup of Conversation aimed to be a consistent, but passive reminder instead.

Three kiwi artists, Josie Mason, Anouska Rickard and Kate Merrifield-Mason generously gave their time and talents to create striking designs that each depict messages of mental health, aiming to spark conversation.

At the end of 2020, what began as a small scribble in my diary and a few phone calls had blossomed into a large scale mental health campaign that spanned the entire country. Innocent Packaging had generously agreed to print over 100,000 of our NZ artist designed cups, donating all profits to I AM HOPE.

I AM HOPE aims to provide all kiwis under 24 years old with free counselling, the week that they need it. No month-long wait times, no qualifying criteria - just someone to talk to, if you need it. It is the grass-roots action from organisations such as I AM HOPE that will change our mental health landscape in Aotearoa.

You can read more about Innocent Packaging and I AM HOPE's origins in this interview, here.

I really believe that we need to stop blaming society for our overwhelming and tragic suicide statistics and start taking responsibilty. Of course, change needs to happen on a governmental level - but we also have the opportunity to take some responsibility. We are Society. We can start conversation, dismantle stigma and check in on our friends. We can advocate for better mental health fundings and support grass-roots change.

Ultimately, I believe it's time that we take our power back and realise what we are capable of as not only individuals, but as a community. For me, Cup of Conversation is a beautiful testament to that. From one girl and a little idea, to a nationwide campaign, right back to a counsellors office where a young New Zealander is receiving life changing support and advice. Doing good always comes back around.

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