Collaborative call to combat mental health issues

Wednesday July 12, 2017 Written by Published in Health
Valentino Wichman played a key role in the launch of the conference which focused on suicide prevention and its prominence in the Cook Islands last week. 17071025 Valentino Wichman played a key role in the launch of the conference which focused on suicide prevention and its prominence in the Cook Islands last week. 17071025

Government and non-government organisations from the Cook Islands and New Zealand joined forces last week at the first mental health and well-being stakeholders meeting.


The meeting on Tuesday looked at suicide, the broad spectrum of mental illness and its prevalence in the Cook Islands.

The gathering was the first of its kind, and was initially proposed when the mental health and wellbeing strategy for 2016-2021 was formed.

The day was split into two segments with the first segment run by New Zealand group Le Va, which focuses on Pasifika families and communities.

They work alongside the relevant services and people who deliver mental health, addiction, public health, suicide prevention and general health and wellbeing services to develop flourishing Pasifika communities.

“There have been a lot of issues regarding mental health that have been highlighted last week. Because when we are talking about mental health we are talking about psychosis all the way down to depression which a lot of people suffer from,” said event coordinator Valentino Wichman.

The group focused predominantly on suicide prevention where they coached and taught the 60 participants about their preventative measures regarding suicide in New Zealand.

The group, which included clinical psychologists and counsellors, also looked at applying relevant suicide preventative strategies in the Cook Islands.

“The information from Le Va was well received by everyone especially a video they played called BRAVE. It was quite confronting but nonetheless educational and eye opening,” Wichman said.

Health minister Nandi Glassie and secretary of health, Elizabeth Iro were among many who attended the conference along with members of the Religious Advisory Council, Ministry of Education, Internal Affairs, Te Kainga, Te Vaerua Rehabilitation, Punanga Tauturu and councillors from other NGO’s.

The second part of the conference was essentially a “stocktake” of the current strategies implemented in reference to suicide prevention, and mental health and wellbeing.

“What we want to do is monitor all the work that’s going on by various agencies in our country, and see what the activities are that are happening out there,” Wichman said.

The conference is said to have highlighted the need for clear approaches and strategies in regards to mental illness within the Cook Islands.

With so many differing organisations, a collaborative approach was said to be the main attitude and prerequisite. 

Wichman said the event was an informative opportunity for the non-government organisations and government ministries to be able to sit under the same roof, at the same table and brainstorm ideas and strategies that may or may not be working for their individual departments.

“In the future we just hope to get better and stronger and look forward to better outcomes in terms of health,” Wichman said.

“And I guess what’s reassuring is that with so many people attending the conference, it is clear there are people in the community that care and who want to make a difference.”

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