S76: Strong partnerships are needed for healthy communities: mental health support workers working in partnership with mental health consumers / tangata whāiora.

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By September 17, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Julia Hennessy, Abbie Ranui

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Strong partnerships are needed for healthy communities: mental health support workers working in partnership with mental health consumers / tangata whāiora.

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Julia Hennessy, RN, PhD. Julia Hennessy, has held a number of senior positions within health and education and has undertaken a number of consultant roles in her home country of New Zealand and internationally. She has undertaken research in the areas of mental health and intellectual disabilities. Julia was the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning with a Wellington-based tertiary education institute, is currently President of the Auckland Institute of Studies, a Trustee for an industry training organiser, national moderator for the funeral and embalming industry and a Director of a private tertiary training institute.

Abbie Ranui, M.Prof Prac, BA (Counselling). Abbie’s clinical background is as a mental health counsellor and support worker. Abbie was a member of the advisory board for the development of Māhuri Tōtara: National support worker summit in December 2018 at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand. Abbie is an academic staff member teaching in the New Zealand Certificate of Health and Wellbeing, and the therapeutic communications papers for Bachelor of Nursing Māori and Bachelor of Nursing Pasifika, in the Wellington Institute of Technology and Whitireia New Zealand.

Strong partnerships are one of the foundations for building healthy communities. Those same strengths within those partnerships are just as important for people with mental health issues living within those communities. This presentation centres on the partnerships between mental health support workers and mental health consumers / tangata whāiora and how these partnerships contribute to our healthy communities.

Much of the information about the health reforms in New Zealand since the 1990s relied on quantitative data, focused on reducing health disparities through meeting key performance indicators. Mental health knowledge, on the other hand, places importance on qualitative indicators and seeks to understand the importance of relationships and partnerships from the perspectives of those involved.

The understanding of mental health support work and the role of the people that undertake this work usually comes from the perspective of other health professions. Mental health support workers and mental health consumers have powerful narratives about their partnerships, however, these stories remain unheard. Hennessy (2015) and Ranui (2018) separately researched the world of mental health workers (MHSW). Both researchers identified that the work they undertake is special, unique, and different than other areas in health work.

Partnership through the eyes of mental health support workers is about acknowledging the lived experience of the mental health consumer. It is about negotiated relationships based on trust and knowing each individual. It is a two-way process which involves both the mental health support worker and tangata whai ora and is dependent on the time they spend with each other.

It is about the depth of these relationships which is developed through the unique setting in healthcare that is occupied by support work, and the mindfulness perceived in this relationship by the support workers themselves which tells a story of a different type of therapeutic connection worthy of further exploration.

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: Gain an understanding of the importance of partnership in a relationship & gain a better understanding of the role of mental health support workers.
Learning Objective 2: Explore different types of therapeutic connections between mental health support workers and mental health consumers / tangata whāiora.

Hennessy, J (2015) The contribution of the mental health support worker to the mental health services in New Zealand: an Appreciative Inquiry approach. http://aut.researchgateway.ac.nz/handle/10292/4
Ranui, A. (2018) Time on the road: The relationship between mental health support workers and tangata whai ora. Unpublished master’s thesis.
Smythe, E., Hennessy, J., Abbott, M. and Hughes, F. (2018), Do professional boundaries limit trust?. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 27: 287-295. doi:10.1111/inm.12319

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