A Good Reason for a ‘GoodYarn’


One of the hardest things is when you know someone is struggling but you’re not sure how to help. That was the issue Fonterra wanted to tackle when we rolled out the “GoodYarn” mental health workshops. Two years on nearly 2000 of our staff have taken part and the conversations are growing. 

Operations Team Lead for Fonterra’s Whareroa & Kapuni Dry Distribution Centre, Bruce Frandsen, admits he’s not normally the kind of guy who puts himself forward for things.

“Before the GoodYarn workshops I’d never facilitated anything before, but I thought, I wouldn’t mind learning about mental health, and wanted to be able to help a few of the guys in my team who had been through some issues.”

Bruce signed up to become a facilitator for the workshops, which help staff discuss mental wellbeing openly with colleagues, family and friends.

Originally created by DairyNZ, the Rural Support Trust and primary health organisation WellSouth, GoodYarn was first targeted at anyone living or working in rural communities and has evolved so it can be tailored for specific organisations, like Fonterra.

The Co-operative’s NZ Health and Wellbeing Manager for Global Operations, Terry Buckingham, says Fonterra originally licenced the workshops for tanker drivers.  

Our drivers are more likely to come face-to-face with farmers who might need our support or someone to talk to. We wanted them to have some tools in the box to recognise the warning signs and help with the conversations they were having.

Terry Buckingham, NZ Health and Wellbeing Manager of Global Operations

“The workshops are very practical and easy to understand, in just two-and-a-half hours you learn how to identify, reduce and manage signs of stress. You also learn how to start a conversation with someone who may be struggling and point them in the right direction to get more help.”

Terry says the response from staff has been really positive.

“The feedback is that they’re spending more time having meaningful conversations with others and have developed a greater awareness of their own mental health. GoodYarn teaches you it’s not about having all the answers but having the knowledge to do something,” says Terry.

Bruce agrees. “In the beginning people are a bit reserved, but by the end of each session everyone says what a good a programme it is. It shows you that the way we talk about physical injuries is just as important as the way we talk about mental health.”

More recently the workshops have been rolled out across other areas of Fonterra and Terry says it’s great to see such a focus on mental health.

“Fonterra cares about its people and understands good mental wellbeing is an essential part of a healthy, safe and productive workplace. GoodYarn is just one of the ways we focus on issues that are important to us all and help our people achieve optimal wellness, resilience and positive mental health.”