Knowledge sharing to support new model of Pacific mental health and wellness

Issue: Volume 101, Number 12

Posted: 21 September 2022
Reference #: 1HAWT_

The Le Toloa Pacific Mental Health and Wellness Symposium, held in Manukau, Auckland in July, was an opportunity for the Pacific community, including students, family, teachers and health professionals, to share knowledge and hear about a new Pacific mental health model.

Le Toloa Pacific Mental Health and Wellness Symposium brought together all the families, schools and community groups involved in the Le Toloa

The symposium was also a chance to celebrate Pacific culture.

The symposium was also a chance to celebrate Pacific culture.

programme, which incorporates the Fonofale Model, a system of wellbeing that acknowledges and embraces Pacific perspectives. It uses talanoa sessions to create a safe environment for parents and teachers to speak openly with each other. 

The symposium also offered an opportunity for mental health and inter-related services which provide support and assistance to students families, and schools, to network and share their knowledge. The experience proved to be valuable.

Tasi Poumale, assistant principal at McAuley High School, has been at the Catholic girls’ secondary school in Ōtāhuhu for 14 years. 

“We [the school] were invited to be part of  talanoa around wellbeing and mental health. I thought it’d be good for our McAuley High School community to also be part of the conversations,” says Tasi. 

She explains the sessions were highly beneficial, particularly the student portal initiated by the students themselves. 

Students, families, and educators were all able to attend.

Students, families, and educators were all able to attend.

“Students asked if they could have a short forum where they could feel safe discussing some of the issues they felt were important for their wellbeing and mental health. So, we did that for one hour over two evenings, and that’s been really helpful.”

Parents also say they benefitted from the information sharing as they had other daughters who were going through mental health challenges. 

Outside the box

Tasi explains the impact of Covid on students in terms of mental health, saying many have suffered from fatigue.

“A lot of our students were trying to balance family commitments, school commitments, but also work commitments, during school hours.” 

In response, the school had to change their expectations for some students being online at particular times due to their work commitments. 

She feels the Le Toloa programme has opened up dialogue surrounding mental health and has helped to make it part of everyday conversations. 

This can assist students to develop resilience and allow the school opportunities to find the best ways to equip their students, for example reassessing expectations that schools have on families and students.  

“I think Covid has helped us to think outside the box. We’ve started a process, but I think we need to understand that just because lockdowns relaxed, it doesn’t mean that we relax on this issue. I think it’s important that we continue to create opportunities to further this conversation.”

Akisi and Galani are students at McAuley High School. They attended the symposium along with other friends after finding out about it from Tasi. 

Akisi has found the programme to be very valuable. She has also taken mediator training to assist other students. She says she learnt a lot from doing this training.

“We learned that if you want to be a mediator to someone, you must learn to control yourself. So, you’re just as important as the person you’re talking to. You must keep yourself in place and talk to the person, so just have a normal conversation but in a good manner,” Akisi says.

Galani says the programme has helped her and other students to understand ways to cope with mental health issues. 

Her advice to other students is, “Think positive. Find someone you can relate to and speak up instead of falling about.” 

McAuley High School students Ianeta, Akisi, Galani, Isabella, Mêle and Mafutaga.

McAuley High School students Ianeta, Akisi, Galani, Isabella, Mêle and Mafutaga.

Kalisi model 

Raymond Schuster, the Pacific vaccinations navigator with Penina Trust, was at the conference to share the way in which they can contribute to mental health. 

The symposium featured a number of speakers.

The symposium featured a number of speakers.

The trust focuses on providing support to individuals with mental health needs and their recovery. Raymond’s role is to provide information about Covid, immunisation, and how to cope with its consequences. 

Raymond was delighted to hear about the new health model that was launched, saying, “I think it will be great and will work well with our people.” 

The new model is called the Kalisi Model of Pacific Mental Wellbeing. It is the brainchild of Leota Dr Lisi Petaia and Fuimaono Dr Karl Pulotu-Endemann, both respected mental healthcare professionals working with the Pacific community. 

The Kalisi Model focuses widely on Pacific languages, values, identity, belief systems, and own knowledge and practices to improve the mental health of Pacific people. 

It does not stand alone from mainstream approaches and services, instead the intention is for it to be an integral part of those services, to provide cultural and clinical mental health/wellness programmes that are community based for Pacific families and communities.

La’asaga Ese’ese is a concept placed within the Kalisi Model that symbolises the different stages of mental health on a spectrum from basic ‘wellness’ to ‘illness’ – red means illness, orange means unwellness and green means wellness. 

Manurewa High School deputy principals Reverend Pennie Otto and Manaia Sialei Laulu.

Manurewa High School deputy principals Reverend Pennie Otto and Manaia Sialei Laulu.

These colours appear as the interwoven ‘afa’ or plait and link each stage. This enforces the idea that each of the stages are linked and are part of a continuum through a person’s life. It also reminds people to be vigilant in looking for potential signs of mental unwellness or illness and to help before it is too late.  

Community support

This concept is one that Litia Bitu, social worker at Anglican Trust for Women and Children, understands. She is currently involved in engaging with priority families within the Pacific and Māori community to increase transition into early learning services. 

“We are working with families who have children between the age of three and five, that haven’t enrolled their children into early learning education. We go out into the community, to their homes.” 

Litia was at the conference after receiving an invitation from the organisers. She could see the value of being able to find out more about the mental status of families, since she works so closely with them. 

The trust is also involved in providing social workers to support secondary schools, their students and families with a wide range of issues, including mental health. So, Litia will also be able to help other social workers by sharing the knowledge she has gained at the conference. 

“The symposium enlightens our thinking. It’s helped us to be aware and how we can be of support. How we can see the signs that someone needs help. It’s hard because sometimes you might think they are just quiet or whatever. But we don’t know what that child is going through.”

The symposium was supported by Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga | The Ministry of Education’s Pacific Education Support Fund.

“Myself and the other organisers were very grateful for the assistance provided by the Ministry, who were very supportive and accessible,” says Karl.

For more information about the Pacific Education Support Fund please visit link)

Fane Tuihaangana, Afiafi Ramsay, Ualesi Ieremia and Malie Faalavaau of South Seas Healthcare.

Fane Tuihaangana, Afiafi Ramsay, Ualesi Ieremia and Malie Faalavaau of South Seas Healthcare.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:54 am, 21 September 2022

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