Striving to help Māori suffering from mental health

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Clinical Psychologist Tania Gilchrist (Tūwharetoa, Kahungunu) says there is a desperate need for more Māori in mental health services. She was one of three doctoral graduates at the second Māori student graduation of 2017 held at the University of Auckland's Waipapa Marae ceremony this weekend.

"I want to work with our whānau and our Māori to change the cycles that we're experiencing with the negative statistics that are already out there with mental health."

Working at Counties Manukau DHB, she wants to expand Māori mental health services.

"It's about being free to be Māori and free to practise in a way that is comfortable for Māori ... and to be free to work within a kaupapa Māori service and to continue to develop and to grow ways of working with our whānau that are relevant to them and meet their needs."

Clinical Psychologist Pikihuia Pomare currently works at Waitemata DHB. She says despite Māori being over-represented in mental health statistics, approximately 5% only of those working in the sector are Māori.

"The main thing is for Māori to see a Māori face and take to them, so it could be a way to make their journey to recovery easier. It's easier for Māori to see and hear a caring voice that they're familiar with."

Pomare says mental health services are just one part of the solution to a multifaceted problem.

"If they come and see a psychologist to find ways to help themselves, their natural talent may be realised, because those skills are in all of us."

She says poverty, homelessness, institutional racism, alcohol and marijuana abuse are among some of the major issues.

"Those issues, as well the effects of colonisation that are still being felt, they aren't all historical issues but they do affect us."

Pomare believes that by pursuing degrees in psychology Māori can gain the knowledge to help their people.