Ko Au ko te Awa ko te awa ko Au

Monday 5 October, 2020 | Blog

“This isn’t talking about the awa alone. It is speaking to the vitality of our people as descendants of the awa. We are so incredibly interlinked that we are dependent on each other for wellness”. Raewyn Allan descends from “The River”– from Ngai Paerangi- the hapu and Te Ātihaunui-ā-Papārangi, the iwi of the Whanganui river.

Raewyn is the CEO of Mahitahi Trust – a kaupapa Māori mental health and addictions service nestled in the heart of South Auckland. Mahitahi has been committed to helping individuals and whānau achieve wellness for over 30 years. In this edition, we take a look at what Māori Mental health and addictions services look like on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allan says that while COVID-19 blindsided us all, our organisation rallied and prepared quickly for it. We continued to deliver services, albeit within a COVIF19 environment but our Whaiora got what they needed, when they needed it, we learned from it quickly, and we got through together”.

As a Māori mental health and Addictions organisation, Mahitahi are working hard to ensure that Whānau Whaiora are not at a double disadvantage due to COVID-19. “Whānau whaiora are more likely to be clinically diagnosed with mental illness without being offered psychosocial support, more likely to be prescribed psych medicines and non-conducive treatments. At every touchpoint of the system, our Māori whānau are disadvantaged. The system is the way it is and they’re treated differently”. Allan continues “Stigma and discrimination is alive and well for these whānau, and they carry the double burden because they’re Māori”.

Mahitahi Trust believes that some structural changes could lead to better outcomes for whānau whaiora – “There are very few Māori clinicians, which is difficult, and many non-māori clinicians don’t understand whakapapa, tino rangatiratanga and whanaungatanga. If they don’t understand you inherently, then they can’t possibly work with you from a worldview that recognises your value systems”. Mahitahi serves whānau all across the South Auckland rohe, and whilst their Kaimahi and Tangata Whaiora are majority māori, their doors are open to all who need support. “We are, unreservedly, a kaupapa Māori mental health and addictions support service. But no one is ever excluded, and we serve anyone who identifies with our values system and wants to be served by kaupapa māori practice”. When asked of how her service has managed 2 lockdowns, and how communities are coping, Allan says “Wave 2 of COVID hit differently. It hit our own communities, and it was a lot closer to home. 80% of cases are māori and pasifika. It’s not close enough that cases are direct whānau members, but its a lot closer than it was before, and this cluster is a South Auckland cluster.” Allan continues “We can’t let COVID be a fullstop anymore. It’s fine to say stamp it out, keep it out, but we can’t live in the limbo of that statement” and must find innovative ways for services to continue to be delivered safely for everyone. “We’re not sure what the colateral will be. We fear that there will be an increase in mental health issues as the psycho-social stressors keep building”. Allan is confident that we have the solutions – “If we can address the inequities faced by Māori then a whole lot of problems will automatically be addressed. Right now our whānau and communities need access to fresh, heathy and nutritious kai. Māori wellbeing needs to be viewed through a Māori worldview ”