Unique Māori mental health approach recognised for awards

By Jessica Tyson

Counties Manukau DHB are being applauded for a new approach in supporting whānau Māori affected by mental health, with their Wellness Support model announced as a finalist in the New Zealand Primary Healthcare Awards.

Since 2018 the programme has provided more than 15,000 funded interventions, ranging from behavioural activation to problem-solving consultations by GPs and practice nurses. Around 5,000 patients have been supported, 20 percent of them Māori.

Dr Lily Fraser is one of the general practitioners who has worked with patients at Turuki Health in Māngere.

“The benefit of this type of fund is that there are so many features that we can follow. In fact, they do not just deal with depression for people who suffer from it. Instead, it focuses on the stresses and the complexities of everyday life.

"So, for more and more people we can seek out that money, so they can come to the doctor for free so they can talk to us,” Dr Fraser says.

She says there is a range of mental health challenges faced by patients.

“There are many kinds of problems, some of which concern themselves, namely sleep patterns, fatigue, perhaps stress on their work. But to others, it may be wider, they may be homeless.”

Another challenge for patients in the past has been being able to afford support, says Wellness Support spokesperson Pam Hawlett.

“It’s a fee for service model so the GP or nurse can see the person and then invoice and that comes through to the DHB. So from a personal perspective and their whānau, they can come in and access the services without having the financial barriers.”

The model also includes the marae-based clinic in Manurewa providing rongoā Māori.

“The model tries to move away from just providing a diagnosis, and people having to meet a criteria and having to fit a box to be able to access care,” Hawlett says.

Dr Fraser thinks the model should be implemented across the country.

“We want to empower the wananga. We are interested in all aspects of spiritual life, culture, philosophy, health, mind and heart.”

Hawlett says work can also be continued from a government level.

“The ministry are doing a lot of work on the integrated primary health and addictions model. The RFP's currently out and I think what we want to do is how we look at how can all these models work together and complement one another, so we don't end up with siloed services."

Counties Manukau DHB also plans to look at ways to collaborate with non-government organisations and local Māori health providers to complement the services for Māori.

The winner of the New Zealand Primary Healthcare Awards will be announced on February 29.