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Cultural care supports Māori mental health

Published Tuesday 14 Dec 2021

Mental health leader Maire Ransfield has been recognised for promoting best practice in her service, which works to improve mental health care for Māori.

Maire is team leader of Te Whare Marie, a Porirua-based Māori mental health service that is part of the Mental Health, Addiction & Intellectual Disability Service (MHAIDS). The outpatient service offers a range of supports, with a crucial cultural perspective, to its clients or whaiora motuhake.

“The idea was that we were able to practice things that we hold dear as Māori – that lift not only our mental health, but our wairua, and help build cultural connections,” says Maire.

The service works with those referred to make a plan for ongoing treatment, with as much whānau involvement as possible. Depending on the needs of whaiora, this could involve a combination of psychology, art-based therapy, CBT, group gatherings, or connecting to nature, all with a Te Ao Māori lens.

“For example, the pūrākau/story of Tāne ascending to the heavens to retrieve baskets of knowledge is used to help whaiora identify their own goals, and the steps needed to reach them,” explains Maire.

The Māori holiday of Matariki offered another opportunity to explore Te Ao Māori, with Maire leading celebrations that included kai hākari, whakairo Māori (carving) and kapa haka, and discovering the genealogy of Matariki.

It’s vital that all staff have insight and knowledge to run the service in a culturally safe way, so Maire encourages attendance at weekly tikanga sessions at which staff not only gain knowledge, but are invited to engage in self-reflection.

“My priority is my staff, and helping them be all they can be,” says Maire.

The service was initially established as a day programme in the 1980s. Today Maire leads a staff team of 30 kaimahi across Porirua, Kāpiti and Wellington, who support around 230 adult and 120 child/adolescent outpatients. She hopes to see a greater emphasis on Māori worldview brought into mental health care in the future.

Maire takes a values-led approach to her service delivery, which led to her winning the Living Our Values category in the 2021 CCDHB Celebrating Success Awards. Maire says it’s a team effort.

“I’m surrounded by people who hold the same values, and we constantly think about how we exhibit our values – what actions will be displayed if we are living them?”