The Covid-19 pandemic was the biggest global health challenge in 100 years, and it is important people do not lose sight of how it impacted their emotional wellbeing, Sir Ashley Bloomfield says.
The well-known former director-general of health has recently become an ambassador for a mindfulness programme for school-aged children.
Developed by Grant Rix in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation, Pause Breathe Smile was funded by Southern Cross Healthcare and available for free to all kura, primary and intermediate schools - so far reaching 114,000 students.
Rix told Nine to Noon: "It really is about teaching kids basic mindfulness skills such as mindful breathing and body scan techniques and things like that, that really help them to build a really healthy, positive relationship with their body and then to apply those basic skills to other areas that are really important for our mental wellbeing, such as being able to regulate our emotions."
Rix said the programme helped children understand the emotions they were feeling and accept it was okay to feel a certain way.
It gave them skills to process those feelings and when negative, replace them with positive ones.
Bloomfield told Nine to Noon the programme had proved to be beneficial already and it was something he was happy to get involved in.
"What I really like about the programme is it's teaching kids a lifelong skill, and certainly mindfulness is a skill anyone can benefit from.
"I've seen the benefits in members of my own family, and after many years of my wife encouraging me to do this a little more regularly, I've started going down that route and actually found it really helpful."
Like the name suggested, it really was about taking the time to pause and focus on breathing, Bloomfield said.
"It's about really thinking about where you are inhabiting this moment and then reflecting on and focusing on that breathing so it centres you again."
When it came to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bloomfield said he believed it really "accelerated and amplified" trends being seen globally around an increase in anxiety and stress for young people in particular.
"It was such a significant event, and I think we forget that - it all feels a little surreal now.
"This was the biggest global health challenge in 100 years and the biggest planetwide event that really disrupted our lives, I'd say since the Second World War.
"It's good that as humans we adapt and move on quickly, but we just can't afford to lose sight of the impact that Covid has had on our emotional wellbeing and we need to take the time to recover just as we do from any physical illness."
Bloomfield said now was the time for such initiatives, and he believed the investment being made in this programme was showing the health system was actually trying to do something concrete to address the issues it was aware of.