Te Aka Whai Ora is investing $626,000 in Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust to meet demand for services addressing mental health distress being experienced by hapū māmā in Canterbury, informed by both mātauranga Māori and western clinical approaches.

Whānau Whakapuawai was designed and developed by Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust as a whānau-centred service. The programme provides holistic healing for māmā who are experiencing distress during the first 2,000 days of their infant’s life.

The service takes a ‘braided river approach’, integrating mātauranga Māori with elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.

The clinical pathway includes mental health assessments, psychoeducation, individual and whānau therapy sessions, and referrals to supporting agencies as required.

Grounded in mātauranga Māori, whānau also have access to a Kaitohutohu Mātauranga to explore their whakapapa, cultural identity and customary practices, while being given access to rongoā to support their wellbeing.

A ‘drop in’ space or individual hui are also provided, depending on whānau needs and requests. In addition, in response to whānau identifying the need for increased connection, Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust has also developed a weekly drop-in kapa haka session.

As well as receiving individual support, māmā can also take part in group pathways. They are:

  • Rākau Mauri Ora: An 8-week narrative therapy group, which has a focus on developing skills in emotional regulation, uses mindfulness techniques, draws upon the wisdom of pūrākau and mātauranga Māori.
  • Ngāhere Mauri Ora: The follow-on group programme is offered to graduates of Rākau Mauri Ora, which builds on the skills gained and has a focus on community and connection.
  • Manu Tohu Tau: A peer support, tuakana-teina programme designed for graduates of Rākau Mauri Ora to become peer support/mentors for other wāhine experiencing mental health distress. Graduates realise their individual tino rangatiratanga enabling support for wāhine entering Rākau Mauri or requiring support in the community.

Kingi Kiriona, Deputy Chief Executive – Mātauranga Māori from Te Aka Whai Ora, says Whānau Whakapuawai is an example of how utilising mātauranga can result in more effective and holistic care that meets the needs of whānau.

“The Whānau Whakapuawai innovation was born out of a recognition that there was a significant gap in services to assist whānau experiencing maternal mental health issues in the Canterbury region.

“This funding is about creating spaces for Māori where they feel safe enough to access the support that they need.”

So far, 103 whānau have gone through the pilot programme, with continued funding allowing Whānau Whakapuawai to be offered as a service for midwives to refer in hapūtanga and beyond.