Supporting Mental Health Recovery for Māori Whaiora: The Success Stories of Māori Whaiora and Non-Māori Clinicians

Awatere-Walker, Inez Tracie
Smythe, Elizabeth
Sutton, Daniel
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Doctor of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

Māori people experiencing mental health issues have been historically under-served by mental health services. In the last three decades the development of Kaupapa Māori health services has provided a culturally responsive option for Māori. However, many Māori are still using mainstream mental health services and there is a need to develop a greater understanding of effective cross-cultural practice within the broader service system.
This research, Supporting mental health recovery for Māori whaiora: The success stories of Māori whaiora and non-Māori clinicians, sought stories of positive cross-cultural engagement in a mainstream service lacking in Māori cultural resources. The hermeneutic methodology was informed by appreciative inquiry and brought a Māori interpretive lens. The stories of 13 people (7 whaiora and 6 clinicians) who felt something good had happened in their cross-cultural work were analysed to uncover the phenomenon of the relationship. Aspects of Māori and non-Māori experience were drawn from the stories and further illuminated by Māori cultural notions, relevant literature, and nuanced by the personal pre (and ever growing) understandings of the researcher. Exploring positive stories provided an opportunity to shed light on the cross-cultural practices, marked first by difference, misunderstanding and tension which, the participants revealed, lead to trust, respect and collaborative working. Tension and success appeared to be two sides of the same coin within the cross-cultural exchanges. Maintaining distance, giving time, acknowledging gaps in knowledge, respectful listening and giving power to the other were shown to be important steps. The willingness to share and blend points of view lead to new ways of creating recovery pathways and upheld the mana (status) and expertise of the other. Recommendations for practice and teaching include the importance of reflecting on one’s own history and prejudices, learning to dwell with uncertainty and the discomfort caused by difference. Clinicians are encouraged to see and hear, beyond ethnicity, the human they are working with. Future researchers are challenged to resist fault-finding and problem-solving and instead pursue an understanding of positive encounters. Cross-cultural research can extend knowledge and enhance already existing positive cross-cultural health care engagements to benefit Māori and other cultures in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Mental health , Recovery , Hermeneutics , Mainstream services , Māori
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