A group of students from New Zealand are amazed at Cook Islands’ efforts on dealing with mental health issues.
The mental health and addiction studies graduates from the Eastern Institute of Technology in Gisborne are in Rarotonga on weeklong educational trip.
Kathyanne Pedersen, one of the graduates, said she loves the way Cook Islanders and mental health groups here take ownership of the issues and work together to overcome them.
“The inclusiveness is beautiful here, and everybody should be proud of that,” Pedersen said.
Coming to Rarotonga is proving valuable for the group as they get to experience how organisations deal with mental health as well as disability and addictions issues, she said.
Pedersen said the way Cook Islanders take care of their loved ones fighting with these issues was different from New Zealand.
She added the group was keen to learn and replicate those methods in New Zealand.
“The way they respond to different cases and working with families, working with those who are struggling and the time that they spend with them. That is something that we as practitioners would like to do but can’t under certain contracts back home.”
This week the group visited the Creative Centre and had an opportunity to learn more about their work.
Pedersen said the visit had given them some ideas which they hope to introduce in New Zealand.
Claudia Maaka, who is a tutor at Eastern Institute of Technology, said the course which runs once a month is the only mental health related tertiary qualification in Gisborne.
Maaka, who has 14 years of experience in mental health and addictions, said the intention of the whole trip was to gain international exposure on how other culture manages and experiences these issues.
She said it was all about building understanding of the types of treatment used, both clinically and holistically.
It is also to build networks and share knowledge on practices used and comparing data of what has worked for the Cook Islands and New Zealand.
She hopes this trip will build capacity, knowledge, connections, whakapapa (ancestors) and exposure to understanding of another culture’s experiences.
Later this week, the 12-member group will visit the Prison Services looking at mental health aspects in the system, the Ministry of Health and Te Kainga Centre.