Breakthrough for Māori Mental Health

May 3, 2019, 12:02 p.m.

Leading forensic Psychiatrist Hinemoa Elder sat down with Te Hiku Media recently to discuss her indigenous intervention programmes for patients with mental health issues specific to traumatic brain injury, her thoughts on clinical approaches and a new digital project.

Elder’s career has seen her sit on a number of influential boards including a fellow of the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the Māori Advisory Committee of the Centre for Brain Research as well as the expert advisory group Blueprint which established the framework for New Zealand mental health service funding.   

Her work focuses on the development of tikanga approaches for Māori who have experienced traumatic brain injuries after recognising western systems are out of alignment with Māori practices and the need to work together.

“Sometimes the way contracts are organised it keeps us apart from each other, but as Māori we’re all on the same kaupapa.

“I think it’s a way that colonisation perpetuates itself because it keeps us fragmented and distanced.”

Her intervention models Te Waka Oranga and Te Kuaka Oranga empower whānau to sit alongside clinicians and collectively guide the patient to the appropriate recovery destination.

The model works on the approach that the clinical team must sit in the Māori space and is likened to a team of paddlers working together to move a waka forward.  

Elder said not enough is being done within the clinical environment to acknowledge a patients wairua, whakapapa trauma or use of cultural healing as a form of treatment and that institutionalised racism is still very prevalent.

“As part of my job, I’m often asked to go to meetings about the behaviour of children.  One of the things I've noticed for our Māori tamariki is there's not much room within our schools before standing them down or expelling.  

“What I contrast that with is seeing Pākeha children presenting with the same behavioural issues and there seems to be a lot more wriggle room and compassion whereas with tamariki Māori there doesn't seem to be that same level of compassion.  The energy is more ‘we can't have this tamariki in our school’.”

Elder has been instrumental in launching a new approach to methamphetamine addiction in the Far North alongside Errol Murray which sees the clinical team step aside.

“I'm so excited to be a part of this programme that has been developed by a group of us, Errol Murray our relation, we wānanga(ed) and what his team recognised was that bringing in clinical staff wasn’t working.

“We developed a Tuakana/Teina model where we identify whānau who have gone through interactions with P and they’ve survived, learnt and moved on and we partner them up with the Teina of the whānau who are still struggling (with addiction).

“What we’ve found from our practice based evidence is its not helpful to have us, the clinicians at the forefront of the programme.”

Inspired to use all platforms of media to assist her clients, Elder is also in the development stages of a wairua centred virtual app to help anyone with traumatic brain injury navigate through daily life.

“The app could be used for any kind’s of interference with wairua so it’s about navigating a wairua injury. Whether it’s brain injury, mental health, addiction problems it could be anything that is disrupting that wairua balance.’

“The app enables whānau to navigate their journey of healing using the metaphor of the waka and they can fill that waka with anyone they want.  Essentially it's about gathering those hue in order to move forward for a healthier future.”

Tags: Health & Wellbeing

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