Natalie Lanfear

Our Work / POD / Natalie Lanfear

When Natalie Lanfear was housebound due to anxiety and depression she never dreamt she would one day be heading overseas for a conference to advocate for mental health.

But that’s exactly what the 24-year-old New Plymouth resident will be doing in August.

“It’s very exciting. I’m still trying to get my head around it,” says Natalie, who is originally from the UK.

She was one of 360 people chosen from 10,000 applicants from around the world to attend the week-long World Merit 360 conference in London.

The conference will focus on 17 of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Natalie will be part of the group coming up with an action plan to tackle the sustainable goal of good health and wellbeing. She will be focusing on mental health.

POD Programme

Natalie is no stranger to advocating for mental health. In 2016, she was selected to take part in the Mental Health Foundation’s POD Programme.

The incubator programme supports young people to create projects that help end discrimination against people who experience mental distress.

“POD was a great way for me to meet other like-minded people who want to advocate for mental wellbeing.”

In 2016, she created a month-long web series on her YouTube channel called The Mindful Minute Challenge, which ran last May.

It was aimed at people aged 13-18 and challenged how they thought about mental health and their own mental wellbeing.

Each day, she posted a video in which she asked a different question for viewers to think about and answer. She also answered the questions herself.

“For example, one of the questions was to describe what is around you right now. It’s encouraging people to take notice and be in the present moment. That question is bringing an element of mindfulness.

“I really want young people to think about their mental health and understand that mental health can be discussed on an everyday basis.”

Print and online booklet

Last summer she worked with Werry Workforce Wharaurau to turn the web series into a digital and print booklet. Part of that process involved pre-filming another series of The Mindful Minute Challenge, which is currently running until the end of this May on her YouTube channel.

Natalie, who is currently studying extramurally towards a Post-Graduate Diploma in Exercise Psychology and E-Learning through Massey University, first experienced mental distress when she was 14.

Things got worse after she hit her head taking part in an adventure race, aged 17.

“I healed physically but not mentally… I’d always been an anxious person but it got so bad I didn’t want to leave the house or do anything. I had this sense of nothingness inside of me,” she recalls.

Natalie took medication for a short time, but it was counselling that really helped her recover.

“Talking really helped and having tools to manage my depression and anxiety. I also had a great support network of family and friends. I was very fortunate too as my school was understanding.”

She says she’s proud of what she’s achieved and never dreamt she would be where she is today.

“It’s been quite the turnaround… never would I have thought I’d be doing all of this and I really want people to talk about mental health and continue that conversation.”

Natalie has set up a Give-a-little page to help fundraise for her trip to London.

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