Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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Need to address Māori depression

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Failing to diagnose depression in Māori, especially, is nothing new, but illustrates the need for urgent action, says the NZ Association of Counsellors.

An Auckland University study, published in the ‘NZ Medical Journal’, measured 15,800 participants’ non-specific psychological distress.

Results show Māori New Zealanders were 7.5 per cent more likely to have a high-risk score in the survey than European New Zealanders on 4.5 per cent.

NZAC Te Ahi Kaa Gay Puketapu-Andrews says the grim reality of Māori depression should spur people to action.

“We have known Māori are more vulnerable to some mental health issues for a long time. This can be largely attributed to many Māori suffering from an intergenerational trauma that has been the result of colonisation.

“Unfortunately, there are barriers to tangata whenua finding useful and culturally responsive help, as well as a lack of Kaupapa Māori service provision, which is often what is most valuable.

Remove barriers

“So, while we might not be able to immediately remove those barriers, we can promote the importance of ensuring that Kaupapa Māori services be more readily available.”

Gay says the association can lead the counselling profession in developing and supporting Māori practices, which will benefit the mental wellbeing of tangata whenua.

“Firstly, we are providing the platform to grow and develop our Māori membership. This ensures the cultural identity of Māori who seek help are met, because cultural identity is a fundamental issue in terms of Māori mental health.”

Gay says other organisations should follow suit and play a role in supporting and developing Māori mental health practitioners and service providers to enable more opportunities for Māori to access counselling.

“The people who understand the issues affecting the mental health of tangata whenua the most are the Māori counsellors and mental health providers.

“That’s why it’s important people access help and services that are culturally responsive to their needs and heritage.”

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