Māori health expert supports mental health review

Māori health and strategy consultant Pania Coote says primary, community and hospital services need to work together to tackle the mental health crisis in Southland and Otago.
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Māori health and strategy consultant Pania Coote says primary, community and hospital services need to work together to tackle the mental health crisis in Southland and Otago.

Te ao Māori does not separate the head from the body when considering mental health but treats the person as a whole.

This is one of the ways the Māori worldview takes a different approach to mental health care and Māori health and strategy consultant and Te Runaka o Awarua trustee Pania Coote said incorporating Te ao Māori would create more equitable outcomes for Māori in Murihiku and Otakou.

Coote fully supported recommendations from the Time for Change – Te Hurihanga independent review of the Southern District Health Board's mental health and addictions that call for the board to take Hauora Māori (Māori wellbeing) seriously.

“We've been trying to achieve equitable outcomes for our people for years. The only way we're going to make a difference is by working together,” Coote said.

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The review speaks of structural racism and systematic inequity in southern mental health services citing a lack of equity reporting, cultural awareness, and representation of the Māori voice in senior leadership.

Patients experienced this racism in many ways, Coote said, from how health officials communicated with them, to struggling to access care.

“It's about treating people how they want to be treated, rather than how you think they should be treated. It's about providing quality care regardless of a person's background or circumstance.”

The report recommends increasing funding for kaupapa Māori services and investing in new models of care.

This would allow communities to design treatment plans that were mana-enhancing and helped people build their cultural identity and capacity to help themselves and their whānau, Coote said.

“If we get it right for our people, we’ll get it right for everybody.”