Sisters, friends or whānau?

This is a lengthier version of an editorial published in this month’s Kai Tiaki New Zealand Nursing Journal. It is based on an invited address I gave at the 10th Annual Conference of the Women’s Health Section:’Divine Secrets of the Sisterhood’ on April 26th  2012.

I recently spoke at the NZNO Women’s health conference about sisterhood. Not that I don’t care about men (I do deeply), but as one of three sisters and as a woman who has spent most of my adult life working in the female dominated profession of nursing, relationships between women are of great personal and professional interest. The call to action in the women’s movement almost thirty years ago emphasised sisterhood and demanded the end of oppression and the commitment to women as a social group (Klein & Hawthorne, 1994). However, the movement also raised questions of difference. Many suggested that in order to understand what women had in common they also needed to pay attention to what they didn’t have in common such as race, gender and sexuality. Focusing on similarity erased and overlooked important differences, but only focusing on difference led to the “othering” of others, stereotyping and pushing people away.

I believe these questions remain important for nursing, because I think our differences can make nursing stronger. An understanding of our differences can help us to better understand our similarities. As Audre Lorde points out “it is within our differences that we are both most powerful and most vulnerable, and some of the most difficult tasks of our lives are the claiming of differences and learning to use those differences for bridges rather than as barriers between us”. So I believe an important question for nurses is how can we capitalise on the energy and movement in difference and resist the coercive force of sameness?

One of the challenges is that differences raise critical issues of power, because differences are often institutionalised (Crenshaw,1994, p.411). Take the idea of the implicit ideal nurse-typically the ideal nurse is female, white, middle class, heterosexual, able bodied, nice, obedient and nurturing (Giddings, 2005; Reverby, 2001). Those nurses that fit the norm experience privilege and those that don’t are marginalised. Internationally, women of colour are present in practice settings with less prestige, lower wages, less security, and less professional autonomy (Gustafson, 2007). While, a disproportionate number of white men and women are ensconced in nursing management, academia and research, whose world view is supported by the dominance of white, Western, biomedical interpretations of health and illness. Grada Kilomba defines whiteness as “a political definition, which represents historical, political and social privileges of a certain group that has access to dominant structures and institutions of society”.  As Ang-Lygate (1997, p,2) points out “political sisterhood is suspect unless those sisters who enjoy privileges denied to other sisters are seen to share the responsibility of dismantling the differences”.

This dominance of whiteness in our workforce and our ideas about health and illness are present in nursing in New Zealand too. We are undergoing a period of unprecedented diversity. Transitioning from largely New Zealand-born European to being increasingly ethnically diverse, our dependence on overseas-born migrant nurses is evident in their composition of 29% of the workforce- one of the highest proportions in the OECD. At the same time Māori and Pacific Islands nurses are under-represented in our workforce while these communities experience the greatest health need. This inequity is challenging and as Margaret Southwick notes provides “justification (if one be needed) for the claim that nursing needs to take seriously the challenge of working with diverse and marginalised groups within society is to be found in the health status of these very same groups of people.” (Southwick, 2001).

So given the diversities in nursing and the health inequities that confront our communities, new strategies are necessary. I’m proposing moving away from sisterhood which implies the shared experience of being a woman and experiencing gender oppression to consider a new metaphor that allows greater consideration of our differences so that we can better articulate our similarities (Simmonds, 1997). There’s friendship for a start, a relationship based on equals who have affection, and interest in each other (Friedman, 1993, p.189). Its etymology is in the word free. It means to love, to love our own freedom, and to love and encourage the freedom of the other (Mary Daly, 1987). Friendship allows us to work in each other’s interests because part of what is compelling is our differences.

The notion of friendship as an alliance within the context of difference can be seen in this brilliant blog post entitled Queer Sisters Keep Saving Me: The Brilliantly Selfish Act of Being an Ally by Black Artemis

Heterosexual people especially women owe a tremendous debt to the LGBTQ struggle for some of the sexual freedoms we enjoy…the boundaries queer people bend and bust at the risk of their own lives in many ways expand our heteronormative privilege. Their radical decision to be simply who they are makes it much safer for the rest of us to redefine who we may want to be. We have a broader range of acceptable sexual expression because of the queer liberation movement for every time they push the envelope, they set a new “normal,” and it’s not even they who benefit the most for their courage. Rather it is those of us whose sexual identity is already validated.

If we are going to use the metaphor of sisterhood we consider the idea of a “chosen family” used by LGBTQ communities or the Māori concept of whānau. It too is based on love rather than biology and includes people as who are a source of love and support outside the heteronormative idea of family.

I’d like us to strengthen nursing by strengthening ourselves, for creating space for all nurses to be able to come together with our diverse traditions and values, to be united based on solidarity not sameness. I’d like us to be able to articulate our shared beliefs and practices while acknowledging how we differ.

I’m proud to be a nurse in New Zealand, I value the shared commitment to caring and to social justice in the shape of cultural safety. I’d like to build on our legacy and see nurses critically examine the values, goals, and intents shaping our profession. I’d like us to have some challenging conversations about power and privilege, to deconstruct our own classism, racism, and homophobia and to think about recognition and reparation. I leave my final words to Audre Lorde:

So this is a call for each of you to remember herself and himself, to reach for new definitions of that self, and to live intensely. To not settle for the safety of pretended sameness and the false security that sameness seems to offer. To feel the consequences of who you wish to be, lest you bring nothing of lasting worth because you have withheld some piece of the essential, which is you.

References

ANG-LYGATE, M., CORRIN, C. & HENRY, M. S. 1997. Desperately seeking sisterhood: Still challenging and building, London, Taylor and Francis.

CRENSHAW, K. 1994. Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. In: FINEMAN, M. A. & MYKITIUK, R. (eds.) The public nature of private violence. New York: Routledge.

DALY, M. (1978) Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, Boston: Beacon.

FRIEDMAN, M. 1993. What are friends for?: feminist perspectives on personal relationships and moral theory, New York: Cornell University Press.

GIDDINGS, L. S. 2005. Health disparities, social injustice, and the culture of nursing. Nursing Research, 54, 304.

GUSTAFSON, D. L. 2007. White on whiteness: Becoming radicalized about race. Nursing Inquiry, 14, 153-161.

HAWTHORNE, S. & KLEIN, R. 1994. Australia for Women: travel and culture, New York, Spinifex Press.

LORDE, A. 2009. Difference and Survival: An Address to Hunter College” Rudolph, New York:, Oxford University Press.

REVERBY, S. 2001. A caring dilemma: Womanhood and nursing in historical perspective. In: HEIN, E. C. (ed.) Nursing issues in the twenty-first century: Perspectives from the literature. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

SIMMONDS, F. N. 1997. Who Are the Sisters? Difference, Feminism, and Friendship. 19-30. In ANG-LYGATE, M., CORRIN, C. & HENRY, M. S. 1997. Desperately seeking sisterhood: Still challenging and building, London, Taylor and Francis.

SIMMONDS, F. N. 1997. Who Are the Sisters? Difference, Feminism, and Friendship. Desperately Seeking Sisterhood: Still challenging and building, 19-30.

SOUTHWICK, M. R. 2001. Pacific women’s stories of becoming a nurse in New Zealand: A radical hermeneutic reconstruction of marginality. Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington.

 

Questions haunt nursing student

In 2007 a student nurse called Lisa Kenyon wrote to the Kai Tiaki asking questions about nursing. I’ve reprinted her letter here and then my response. It seems relevant at the moment

I am a year-one nursing student from Waiariki Institute of Technology, doing my bachelor of nursing at Windermere in Tauranga. I have recently been out on my first practicum for three weeks and have come away with a multitude of questions. I am a 34-year-old married woman with a child, and consider myself experienced in the traumas and joys that life can bring. After finishing my practicum, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I was left reflecting on my personal experience with the elderly.

I cared for a dear man who unfortunately died in my second week of being his student nurse; I was so privileged to have spent that time with him and his family. But I was left with a list of questions and thoughts to which I have no answers. Maybe there are no answers and maybe, with more nursing experience, these questions will make sense, but for now I want to share my thoughts and wonder how other experienced nurses or student nurses have overcome these difficulties.

The questions that bother me are: Can a nurse “care” too much? Don’t patients deserve everything I can give them? How do I protect myself and still engage on a deeper level with the patient? How do I avoid burnout? Why can’t I push practice boundaries, when I see there could be room for adjustment or improvement? Isn’t it okay to feet emotionally connected to the patient? Don’t I need to continually ask questions, if nursing is to change, or will that just get me fired?! Finally, am I just being a laughable year-one student, with hopes and dreams and in need of a reality check?

I would really appreciate feedback from other student nurses who have felt the same or from experienced nurses with some insight into these questions, as I am left doubting what kind of nurse I am going to be.

Lisa Kenyon, nursing student, Waiariki Institute of Technology, Tauranga.

My response below:

I was pleased to see Lisa Kenyon’s letter, Questions haunt nursing student, in the December/ January 2006/2007 issue of Kai Tioki Nursing New Zealand (p4). The questions she has reflected on indicate she is going to be an amazing nurse.

I believe nursing is both an art and a science, and our biggest tools are our heart and who we are as human beings. I was moved by her letter and thought I’d share my thoughts. The questions she posed were important because the minute we stop asking them, we risk losing what makes us compassionate and caring human beings.

Let me try to give my responses to some of the questions Lisa raised–I’ve been reflecting on them my whole career and continue to do so.

1) Can a nurse “care” too much?

Yes, when we use caring for others as a way of ignoring our own “issues”. No, when we are fully present in the moment when we are with a client.

2) Don’t patients deserve everything I can give them?

They deserve the best of your skills, compassion and knowledge. Sometimes we can’t give everything because of what is happening in our own lives, but we can do our best and remember we are part of a team, and collaborate and develop synergy with others, so we are resourced and can give our best.

3) How do I protect myself and still engage on a deeper level with the patient?

I think we have to look after our energy and maintain a balance in our personal lives, so we can do our work weft. We also need healthy boundaries so we can have therapeutic communication.

4) How do I avoid burnout?

Pace yourself, get your needs met outside work, have good colleagues and friends, find mentors who have walked the same road to support you. I’ve had breaks from nursing so I could replenish myself.

5) Why can’t I push practice boundaries, when I see there could be room for adjustment or improvement?

I think you can and should, but always find allies and justification for doing something. Sometimes you have to be a squeaky wheel

6) Isn’t it okay to feet emotionally connected to the patient?

Yes, it is okay to feel emotionally connected to the patient, but we also have to remember that this is a job and our feelings need transmutation into the ones we live with daily.

7) Don’t I need to continually ask questions, if nursing is to change, or will that just get me fired?

Yes, you do have to ask questions but it is a risky business. Things don’t change if we don’t have pioneers and change makers.

8) Finally, am I just being a laughable year-one student with hopes and dreams, and in need of a reality check?

No, your wisdom and promise are shining through already and we want more people like you. Kia Kaha!

Ruth DeSouza RN, GradDipAdv, MA, Centre co-ordinator/Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Asian and Migrant Health Research, National Institute for Public Health and Mental Health Research Auckland University of Technology

When helping does not help: Invisible children and colonialism

In almost thirty years of being a nurse I’ve learned that what one person thinks is helpful can be coercive to another. “Help” is complex, raising questions such as: how has the helper negotiated the relationship? Does the helper understand the problem? Do the people being helped agree with the helper’s framing of the problem? There is also the issue of power in the helping relationship. How did the helper get the power to help? What access to resources and knowledge does the helper have? Does helping disempower the helped?

The film and campaign KONY 2012 by Invisible Children and directed by Jason Russell about the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by the “monster” Joseph Kony has generated passionate pleas from a range of “friends” to support the “people” of Uganda. I am excited about the democratisation of information through social media, but I’ve been frustrated that this video has made us all “experts” about Africa. There is a bigger social and political backdrop to this story which has been tracked by Blackstar news and Akena Francis Adyanga.

My concern with this video is that it valorises the story being told by Invisible children (and other white people) at the expense of African leaders, without access to the same power structures or resources. The  documentary repeats the colonial imperative for Africa to be saved by white people. This video smacks of yet another colonial “civilising” project,  where the old binaries of colonialism are revived. These frame Africa as backward, while the west is modern; “we” are positioned as free while “they” are oppressed and so on. In this binary of good and bad, Africans are represented on the not so good side of the binary. Therefore, the solution must be a good one, a white one, and in this hierarchy Africans lose out. Local efforts and voices go unacknowledged in favour of the white saviour complex, which as Teju Cole suggests “supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening”. Even the name  “Invisible Children” as the Sojourner project points out “denies and co-opts the agency of Ugandans – many of whom have organized to protect child soldiers”.

I have a stake in this propaganda video on several fronts. One is my personal experience of being born in Tanzania to parents who were also born in Tanzania and and having two sisters who were born in Kenya. My own life has been shaped by three versions of colonialism: German, Portuguese and British, and continues to be shaped by colonialism’s continuing effects in the white settler nation of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Secondly, in my doctoral studies, I investigated the colonial legacies of health and nursing in the context of migrant maternity. My profession of nursing is not only an altruistic and caring enterprise, but is also complicit with biomedicine in the advancement of colonialism and imperialism. Medicine has used imperial claims to modernity and universalism, while the concept of “health” has in turn has lent moral credibility to the colonial enterprise. Consequently, one of my theoretical and political commitments is the resistance to imperial cultural analysis. I abhor the white saviour narrative, where vulnerable children or women of colour must be rescued from men of colour by “culturally superior” white men or women.  We need less individualising narratives, where the full social, political and historical contexts of a situation can be considered.

So what does a process such as colonialism have to do with this video? European colonialism put in place hierarchies of superiority/inferiority and structures of domination and subordination. The conquest and control of other people’s land and goods has recurred throughout human history, but European colonialism in the 19th century allowed for the growth of European capitalism and industry through the economic exploitation of raw materials, cheap, indentured or slave labour and profitable land in the colonies. Profits always returned to the imperial centres. Domination and authority were supported by defence and foreign policies and internalised so that ordinary “indeed decent men and women accepted their almost metaphysical obligation to rule subordinate, inferior, or less advanced people” (Said, 1993, p.10). These imperial ventures were justified on the basis of developmental and pedagogical notions of progress and improvement. They created the template for contemporary production under globalisation. So none of us are outside of or immune from postcolonial relations, values and belief systems whether our ancestors were colonisers or colonised. We are all influenced by colonialism.

Narratives produced about the colonies have historically defined the West in contrast with the “Orient”. The Orient was represented in a denigrating and negative way, in order to represent a civilised and positive Britain. Generalisations were made about groups of people who were treated as a homogenous mass (rather than communities of individuals) about whom knowledge could be obtained or stereotypes created – for example ‘the inscrutable Chinese’. The video plays into this oppositional dichotomy of “us” and “them”, constructing two social groups as distinct and internally homogenous. It begins with a sense of connection, it targets our desire to belong and connect by talking about social media, emphasising what we have in common. However, the “we” that it refers to is white. The video then moves to the “other” and the mobilisation of social movements that social media allows in the form of the Arab Spring. The director Russell then shares a very personal experience of the birth of his son and how his son takes part in his father’s film work and activism. The son embodies Russell’s desire for a better world than the one he came into “because he [my son] is here, he matters”. Russell then takes us to Uganda and the experience of another young man who has had a different life from that of his son. A young man who has experienced loss and unimaginable suffering, who has no future because of Joseph Kony. Russell says something like “you mean this has been happening for years? If this happened in America for one day it would be on the cover of Newsweek”. How can we fail not to be moved? Rusell takes us through the journey he makes with his friends of trying to raise the attention of the United States government of the plight of this young man and eventually through the advocacy and donations of lots of young people who donate small amounts of money every month, the government takes action. Of course this might have nothing to do with the fact that oil was found in Uganda in 2009. Russell in his voice over says they did not wait for governments, they’ve built schools, created jobs, created warning systems to keep people safe. All funded by young people.  Russell invokes liberal humanist arguments (the very ones that were central to colonial capitalism) about the right of the individual to have a good life. As Teju Cole righly points out “the White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege”.

The video enacts the binary colonial script of the civilised and liberated white person who rescues Ugandan children, thereby affirming the superiority of the former. Russell reproduces the narrow representations of people of colour as a mass of oppressed people who live in a world without freedom, ruled by oppressive vain tyrants (oops that sounds like the West!). He reproduces a flattened and familiar “single story” of Africa. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”  In the process, the complexity and diversity of people’s lives are lost and local activism is hidden from view in favour of camera crews with resources and magnanimity. Think about Binyavanga Wainana’s essay, How to Write about Africa:

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress

The effect is that we focus on the other, instead of looking at the monsters in our own communities. Rather than offering our support to the efforts of indigenous people who are quietly attempting to right wrongs without a television camera present, we get carried away in a tide of righteous indignation about “stopping the monster”.The video provides a depository for our own feelings of powerlessness and frustration. It demands very little of us. We don’t need to be accountable to a faceless mass, because we can trust Russell, we’ve seen the birth of his boy child, we’ve seen him in his kitchen, we’ve seen him in the family bed with both his children. He is trustworthy. Never mind facts such as Kony is no longer in northern Uganda, that the Ugandan army have also contributed to the violence meted out to civilians, that General Museveni used child soldiers way back in 1986 or that only 31% of funds that Invisible children receive go into this charity work.

So what does helping really mean in a different social context? How does sharing a link to a video to an organisation that is barely transparent about its funding, that uses the bodies of children to make a point, that carries us away with the injustice of it all, help? How does the fact that the focus now in Northern Uganda is about repatriating child soldiers who are being held in DRC, Sudan and the Central African Republic, on postconflict rehabilitation and the reintegration of child soldiers? What impact will this film have on former child soldiers who have now reintegrated into  their communities? Can something with good intentions lead to misconceived interventions? Hell yes! The history of modern Africa is replete with aid failures and poorly allocated resources.

I am not against standing up and fighting for what is right, but only when we really understand what we are standing up for, not on “zero knowledge and maximum hysteria” as Elliot Ross argues. So we must make the most of this technology that is available to us and to critically interrogate the sources of this new media, their motivations and their operations . We need to do the research, to ask questions about our own complicity in contemporary geopolitics and to support the people who understand the problem.

Power relations

Hot off the press! I’ve just had this chapter on power relations published in S. Shaw, A. Haxell & T. Weblemoe (Eds.), Communication and lifespan development. Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Many practitioners see themselves as apolitical and powerless, particularly with regard to their relationships with the structures of medicine and management. However, in reality practitioners are powerful both as individuals and as members of the groups with which they identify. The structures and cultures within which most health and disability practitioners exist and work are based on beliefs and practices that constrain autonomy. These constraints are at work through a number of mechanisms, such as the market, the infusion of targets and performance measures and quality programmes (Newman & Vidler, 2006). In addition, the changing role of consumers or service users from passive recipients of care in the past to people who may be informed, empowered, articulate and ‘demanding’ poses a threat to the ‘knowledge–power knot’ on which professional power rests.

When practitioners view themselves as people who are doing good, they tend to lack awareness of their complicity and embeddedness in relations of power that structure inequality. Yet, power is embedded in everyday practices and interactions (Bradbury Jones, Sambrook & Irvine, 2008). Practitioners within the wider health and disability sectors contribute to social regulation through their roles as employees of the state. They enact government policies for the benefit of the health of the citizens of the state; so they are both governed and governing. Members of recognised professional groups are provided with a moral authority by their capacity to define problems and pose solutions, and their role in defining and evaluating good or normal behaviour and health practices through surveillance of the population and the criteria for interventions on behalf of the state (Gilbert, 2001, p. 201).

These ambivalent relationships with power that are evident among health professionals require exploration. This can be done by considering the various ways in which power is conceptualised and the micro and macro definitions of empowerment. Some shifts in power have occurred in the last few decades, largely influenced by various social movements. Maternity and mental health are two particular examples of professional practice and service delivery in which power can be recognised and ideas of empowerment can be translated meaningful engagement between service delivery and those who engage with the service.

People of colour decolonisation hui

The Decolonise Your Minds! Hui on February 5th in Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa provided a great opportunity to present my PhD work to awesome folks with similar theoretical and political commitments. Outside a professional or academic context and supported by fabulous vegan food and great korero and creativity, the radical space provided a great opportunity to not have to explain everything!

In my presentation, I talked about the ways in which the people who are supposed to care in institutions can engage in subtle coercions and “do” violence. This violence works through the reproduction of taken for granted norms and values, such that pressure is exerted on those whose personhood sits outside the accepted norms and values and reshapes their personhood. Reflecting an assimilatory process similar to the colonial process of moral improvement. Hardly a surprise considering that institutions like health and education are colonial, having been transplanted from the metropole to the colony and super-imposed over indigenous ways of learning and maintaining health.

Using the example of maternity I talked about the ways in which heath professionals draw on culturally and socially available repertoires of care that can be less than helpful when imposed on women of colour. This is because so often these repertoires are drawn on the basis of an implicit ideal user who tends to be cis-woman, heterosexual, white, middle class and one who takes up the ‘imperative of health’. That is the ideal neoliberal consumer who makes herself an expert through her consumption of self-help books and its acceptable accoutrements, who takes responsibility by attending ante-natal classes and who labours naturally with her loving and supportive partner present. She obeys the edicts of the health professional and makes reasonable requests that align with the dominant discourse of maternity as an empowering experience (if you are “informed” and “take responsibility”).

You can listen to the audio which is hosted by the Pride New Zealand website. I take the audience through the idea of discourses and how they shape subjectivity and practice.

Please note I have a tendency to swear when I am speaking passionately about something!

Developing diversity in the workforce

Published in Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand 1410.10 (Oct 2008): p23(1).

Identifying barriers, opportunities and strategies to integrate and develop a diverse health workforce was the aim of a workshop at the recent Diversity Forum in Auckland.

“Capitalising on a diverse health workforce” was hosted by the Centre for Asian and Migrant Health Research at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and opened by dean of the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences at AUT’s North Shore campus, Max Abbott. He recounted how pivotal overseas health professionals were to his recovery during a recent hospital stay.

Nurse consultant-recruitment at North Shore Hospital, Waitemata District Health Board (DHB), Carat Frankson, identified some bottlenecks to the registration of overseas nurses, in particular passing the International English Language Testing System (IETLS) exam, getting a job offer and finding employment opportunities for spouses. Other bottlenecks included organising passports and visas, selling and buying houses, finding schools, living costs, climate, separation from family, loss of familiar surroundings, religious practices, cultural backgrounds and the financial costs of moving from one country to another. Strategies the DHB provided in order to embrace a diverse nursing workforce included:

  • coaching, support, mentorship and supervision in the work environment;
  • introduction to the New Zealand cultural context and context of nursing at the DHB;
  • education in the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi; and
  • education in the values of the Waitemata DHB: integrity, compassion, openness, respect and customer focus.

The process could be mutually beneficial, Frankson said. “It is our responsibility to introduce and support new recruits into the New Zealand way of life, offering them cultural support. Incorporating and including immigrants into our communities is a responsibility we all share.” White these health professionals benefitted our workforce, they could also benefit other areas of society, eg schools, Libraries, universities, community centres, religious centres and the legal system, she said.

Auckland DHB clinical nurse educator, Roanne Crane’s presentation on integrating overseas-trained health professionals into the DHB identified some of the issues facing overseas registered nurses, such as Language, manoeuvring through the New Zealand registration process, socialisation, cultural differences, unprincipled agents and assumptions/racism.

Reducing health inequalities

Workforce development consultant at Counties Manukau DHB, Elizabeth Ryan, discussed the increasing demand for health services. The population was ageing, with the number of people over 65 projected to more than double between 2001 to 2021; a third of deaths occurring everyday in Counties Manukau were from potentially preventable conditions; and workforce demand would outstrip supply, with shortages nationally of up to 40 percent predicted by 2021, including in South Auckland. Having an ethnically diverse workforce was a key strategy in reducing inequalities in health, she said. The workforce needed to reflect the community being served in order to deliver quality health services in a culturally-appropriate manner. Ethnic matching was associated with greater patient satisfaction and better patient-reported outcomes.

She highlighted initiatives such as increasing the number of high school students studying health courses, with an emphasis on Maori and Pacific students, increasing numbers pursuing health at mid-career level, especially males/ Maori and Pacific people, collecting accurate demographic data, developing an affirmative action policy and the pilot programme which wilt see around 50 Pacific-Island trained nurses gain registration in New Zealand annually over the next three years.

Meeting the challenge of institutionalised racism was tackled by Auckland University researcher Nicola North. Of note was the complex and subtle set of skills that international medical graduates (IMGs) and international registered nurses(IRNs) needed to acquire, eg understanding cultural differences, familiarity with the culture of the new community of practice, fluency with the nuances of professional communication, and understanding the behaviour and values expected. To meet the challenge, North suggested several factors needed to be addressed: self-reflection as a society, a focus on immigration and settlement structures and processes, even-handed behaviour from registration councils, finding employment, smoothing the process of joining the new practice community and, lastly, getting real. “We need to acknowledge we need IMGs and IRNs more than they need us,” she said.

In the final part of the workshop, the group considered the question: What would a health system that capitalised on its diversity look like? Answers included:

  • recognising skills and supporting people financially;
  • ensuring the health workforce reflects the population demographics;
  • passing on success stories to the media;
  • rewarding and acknowledging cultural competence;
  • fostering diversity at all levels, including around decision-making, to develop new ideas and treatments;
  • consolidating, streamlining and integrating information systems to free up funding for initiatives;
  • growing the inter-cultural communication capacity of the entire workforce, eg educating people about how to deriver bad news to patients;
  • including diversity at art education levels;
  • focusing on areas of under-representation and targeting them specifically; and
  • ensuring support mechanisms are developed to take into account cultural differences, eg around employee disputes.

New York author Margaret Visser argues that change and diversity are necessary to human growth and evolution: “Machines like, demand, and produce uniformity. But nature loathes it: her strength lies in multiplicity and in differences. Sameness, in biology, means fewer possibilities and, therefore, weaknesses.” (1)

Reference

(1) Visser, M. (1999) Much depends on dinner:. The extraordinary history and mythology, allure and obsessions, perils and taboos, of an ordinary meal. New York: Grove Press.

How to conquer anxiety and even enjoy giving a presentation

Published in Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand 13.10 (Nov 2007): p20(2).

It is 11 years since my first conference presentation and I remember that day vividly. I had prepared carefully for the presentation; friends and family came to support me; but a tricky question at the end of my presentation took me by surprise: “Ruth, thanks for that interesting presentation. How does what you say relate to postmodemism?” I was mortified and fudged an answer. It’s a wonder that anyone presents realty! Why would you expose yourself in this way and what is the purpose of a presentation?

In this article I attempt to summarise some of my learning and share some strategies and ideas, in the hope of prompting readers to consider embracing the performance that is presenting. I am going to ask you first to think about who was the best speaker you have ever heard and what was good about them. Now, think about what presenting might have to offer you. Why should nurses think about presenting or public speaking? It is a good career move. The pay off is personal satisfaction, peer esteem and building your career. It is a good skill to develop–you might need to present research at a conference, in-house or at an interview. These experiences help you become a better presenter and increase your visibility.

Conferences, for example, provide an important arena and opportunity for people to exchange views and communicate with each other. They are also useful for linking up with the people who are most interested in your work.

What makes a good speaker?

What makes a good speaker? In my view, a good speaker begins and ends their presentation strongly; you are hooked from the first word to the last, by their brilliance, humour, wisdom, provocation and ability to entertain. They also know how to tell good stories, but they never read from their speech. They capture your attention because, not only do they know their own work, they also have a clear message.

So how does one go about speaking? I have developed as a presenter over the years from being flustered and over-prepared, to having far too much to say, to now beginning to feel natural and comfortable when I present at a conference or gathering of peers.

When I was a group therapist and facilitator, I had to speak to several people at a time and this helped me grow in confidence as a speaker. Then I was asked to facilitate a function attended by 250 people. This prompted me to do a Toastmasters course, where I learned how to recover from mistakes in a presentation. I also realised that when I was anxious, I lost my ability to be natural and humorous, but if I could manage my anxiety, then all would be well

In terms of conference presentations, I prepared by reading previous papers and began networking, so I got to know other people in my research field, which helped me realise I had something to offer.

Preparation crucial

Preparation is crucial to presenting well Three aspects need to be addressed: the purpose, structure and content of your presentation. In considering purpose, it is important to know the key messages you want to convey. It might help to start at the end and work backwards–every presentation needs a destination. Then consider what you need to say to assist the listener to get those key messages. Is there a context you need to introduce? How much can you assume your audience will know already? So to the structure. I tend to work on the basis of four parts to a presentation: the introduction, the body, the guts and the conclusion.

The purpose of the introduction is to motivate the audience, which you can do by having a warm up or a question. I also use this part to introduce myself and define the problem or issue, and set the scene. Then you can introduce the context, such as terminology and earlier work. At this point, I would also emphasise what your work contributes to the topic or area, and provide a road map of where your presentation is going. This normally takes around five minutes. The next part of the presentation outlines some big picture results or themes and why they are important. This is followed by the “guts” of what you want to say, where you present one key result, carefully and in-depth.

The conclusion is where many presenters (including myself) run out of steam. The conclusion involves rounding off your presentation neatly and linking everything you’ve said. This can be a good time to mention the weaknesses of your work, and it can help manage questions at the end. It is good to find a way to indicate the presentation is over. I do this by thanking the audience and asking if there are any questions.

Now to the content. Many people use PowerPoint presentations. Use slides like make up–sparingly and simply: common advice is don’t have too much on them; and don’t have too many. (I’m still working on this one.) Six words per bullet point and a maximum of six bullet points per slide is recommended.

The slides are merely an adjunct to your talk, so please don’t read them word for word (my pet hate). The purpose is to highlight key points for the audience and to prompt the speaker. In considering the number of slides to have, keep in mind that each slide takes about a minute and a hail or two minutes to read and fully understand?? If you have 87 slides for a 25-minute talk, like someone I was on a panel with recently, you are likely to overwhelm your audience. Take care with formatting your slides and make sure the spelling is correct. Lastly, be sure you’ve saved your presentation to two types of media. Practise your presentation, ask for a second opinion and get some feedback. Practising helps fine tune your timing.

On the day itself, make sure you are prepared and took and feet good. Ensure you take the media you are going to use and take a hard copy of the presentation to refer to. Say your presentation out loud. At the venue expect nothing to work and scope the technology. Address your anxiety. I do this by practising my presentation, going for a brisk walk and taking deep breaths. I also like to get to the venue early and mingle with those attending the conference, so I can develop some allies in the audience. Focus on being yourself and focus on giving.

Connecting with the audience

Now to the actual presentation. Make sure you project your voice to the very back of the room. It is important to know the audience and pitch your message accordingly. Make eye contact if possible–this is easier if you had time to meet people beforehand. Find a way to involve the audience and make sure you have a good opening. Use repetition to reinforce your message: tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them, but repeat it in different ways. Make sore you are standing in the right place so you aren’t blocking your slides or other visual aids.

Remember that once you get involved in what you have to say, then the nervousness will go away. Don’t be afraid to pause, and you can pause for emphasis. If you get stuck, just move on to the next part of your presentation (others won’t notice). Be spontaneous, considerate and inclusive. I like to move around and I tend to focus on entertaining. If you can generously link in with what previous speakers have said, or affirm later speakers for continuity and reinforcement, that is all to the good. Whatever you do, don’t go over time.

Congratulations, you’ve finished. Now, let’s talk about feedback and questions. Feedback is critical to Learning how to improve your talk and for future presentations. Solicit feedback, if it isn’t freely given, but be prepared for some negative comments! Ask for written feedback, if appropriate.

Managing questions is important. Repeat the question so everyone can hear. It is important to be both prepared and polite. Keep your answers short where possible. If you get drawn into a Long discussion with a questioner, for the sake of your audience, offer to discuss the issue tater. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know. Find a way to turn criticism into a positive statement, eg “thanks for mentioning that, it’s given me something to think about”, rather than being defensive.

Different types of questions

In my experience there are four types of question: the genuine request; the selfish question (which is realty about the questioner saying “Look at me”); the malicious question (which is designed to expose you); and the question that has absolutely nothing to do with your presentation and makes you wonder if you and the questioner were in the same venue!

Presenting requires a delicate balance–preparation is important but so is being yourself and being spontaneous. It is important to have content and structure, but the more you have of both, the less room you have for questions and spontaneity. It is important to be inclusive, but be careful with humour and jokes or your own stories, unless you can Link them with your talk well. Lastly, be entertaining, know your material, keep it simple, be prepared, be creative and have fun!

Sailing In A New Direction

First published by: Australian Network for Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention for Mental Health (Auseinet) – www.auseinet.com/journal and then republished in Mindnet Issue 11 – Spring 2007

Abstract

Migrants and refugees make up an increasingly significant number of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s population with one in five New Zealanders being born in another country compared with one in eight people in the United States and one in fifteen in Europe. Increasingly efforts are being made to ensure that settlement services are provided and that mental health service delivery is cognisant of their needs. This paper describes some of the efforts being undertaken in Aotearoa/New Zealand and the implications of such efforts; in particular the mental health of Asians, a growing group, is explored. The author suggests that there is a need to learn from Pacific people’s ventures, to broaden the bicultural dialogue and finally to expand the new focus from Asians, refugees and migrants to also include the needs of long term settled communities and international students.

Keywords

multicultural, bicultural, multicultural mental health, mental health policy, Māori, Pacific peoples, Asian people

Simply by sailing in a new direction You could enlarge the world. (Curnow, 1997, p.226)

A sailing metaphor seems apt as the focus of this paper is on the people who have crossed the ocean to reach Aotearoa/New Zealand. Around 1300 AD the ancestors of Māori used the stars and the winds to sail southward from Hawaiiki in their waka (canoes) to Aotearoa/New Zealand. Thousands of years earlier, the world’s first seafarers had set off from South-East Asia, sailing into the Pacific on rafts. Tasman’s arrival in 1642, followed by Cook in 1769 marked the arrival of Europeans. Organised settlement followed the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Pacific migration increased from a trickle after World War II as manufacturing and service industries grew. Asians too had been coming to New Zealand since the 1800s but their numbers were small until after 1987.

Young Chinese men from Guangdong province travelled to the goldfields of Otago in the 1860s (Ip, 2005) and Indian connections with New Zealand began in the late 1800s with Lascars (Indian seamen) and Sepoys (Indian soldiers) arriving after deserting their British East India Company ships (Swarbrick, 2005). The earliest refugees arrived between 1870-1890 and included Danes, Russian Jews and French Huguenots. Subsequently, refugees from Nazism (1933-39), Poland (1944), Hungary (1956-58), ‘handicapped’ refugees (1959), Chinese (1962-71), Russian Christians from China (1965), Asians from Uganda (1972-73), Chileans, Soviet Jews, Eastern Europeans, people from the Middle East, South-East Asia (Indo-Chinese), Somalia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iran and the Sudan have resettled in New Zealand. More recently, Asian foreign fee-paying students have impacted on the education system, becoming important to the national economy and more visible in society (International Division & Data Management and Analysis, 2005).

It’s time to enlarge our world

Migrants to New Zealand are caught between two charged agendas: the colonial ideal of a homogeneous society, replicating Britain, and the desire of Māori for recognition as people of the land, or Tangata whenua, with specific rights. New Zealand’s founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi and the social policy principle of biculturalism have become an explicit template for relationships between indigenous Māori and subsequent migrants. The racialising and othering of migrant groups, along with past migration policy designed to keep the country white (Beaglehole, 2005), have implicitly shaped the treatment of migrants.

Changing migration patterns

The 2001 Census found that Europeans/Pākehā (Māori name for white New Zealanders) made up 79.6% of the population, followed by New Zealand Māori with 14.5%, people from the Pacific Islands 5.6%, and Asians 6.6% (adds to more than 100% because ethnicity is self-defined; people could select more than one ethnicity). Of the Asians, the largest groups are Chinese who make up 2.2% and Indians who make up 1.2% of the total New Zealand population (Statistics New Zealand, 2002b). Asians are the fastest growing ethnic group, increasing by around 140% over the last ten years and predicted to increase by 122% by 2021. In comparison, Pākehā will increase by 1%, Māori 28% and Pacific People 58%. This new diversity is in stark contrast to the previous assimilationist post-1945 migration policy which positioned the ideal migrant as ‘invisible’. Linguistic and religious diversity were also a hallmark of the 2001 Census which noted a 20% increase in the number of multilingual people and an increase in the percentage of people whose religion was non-Christian, including Hindu 56%, Buddhist 48% and Islam 74%.

Policy changes: From monocultural to bicultural to multicultural

Canada and Australia embraced multiculturalism during the 1960s, transforming the notion of settlement into a two way process; change was required by both migrants and the host society. New Zealand policy made this strategic move only as recently as 1986. The 1980s were a pivotal period in discussions of New Zealand identity, featuring biculturalism and its incorporation into social policy in New Zealand (Bartley & Spoonley, 2004). Discussions of multiculturalism began with the arrival of Pacific peoples in the 1970s and required Pākehā to cede the monopoly on power and decision making and the allocation of resources (Bartley & Spoonley, 2004). An attempt to address the bicultural/multicultural relationship came about with proposals that biculturalism should take precedence and subsequent arrivals to Aotearoa needed to negotiate a primary relationship with Māori (Bartley & Spoonley, 2004). Multi-culturalism would then be the outcome of a network of completed bicultural negotiations; however, no process was ever suggested for this to occur (Bartley & Spoonley, 2004). The bicultural/multicultural debate remains un-resolved and problematic (DeSouza, 2004a; Mohanram, 1998; Thakur, 1995; Walker, 1995; Wittman, 1998). However, rather that biculturalism being a barrier to multiculturalism, I believe that it has paved the way for the majority culture to consider cultural issues at large. The Immigration Act 1987 eased access into New Zealand from non-traditional source countries and replaced entry criteria based on nationality and culture with criteria initially based on skills. The policy changes led to unprecedented cultural diversity. In particular, Asians became a sizable majority of migrants, increasing from 18.7% of permanent and long term arrivals in 1987 to 48% in 1993 (Bartley & Spoonley, 2004).

A growing Asian population

‘Asian’ is a term that has differing definitions depending on the geographical context in which it is used. In New Zealand ‘Asian’ tends to refer to people from South East Asia and there are debates about whether an umbrella term such as ‘Asian’ is useful or merely an expedient construct that potentially provides benefits but disguises disparities within groups (Rasanathan, Craig & Perkins, 2004; Workshop Organising Team, 2005). In the 2001 Census, 44% of Asians identified with the Chinese ethnic group, 26% with the Indian ethnic group, 8% Korean, 5% Filipino, 4% Japanese, 3% Sri Lankan, 2% Cambodian, 2% Thai, and 8% with other Asian ethnic groups (note that people could give more than one response; therefore, these percentages do not add to 100) (Statistics New Zealand, 2002a). Asians in New Zealand are a relatively young population and are generally in good health. Most live in the Auckland region and over half are aged between 25 and 65 years, around 20% are aged 15 to 24 years and 20% are aged below 14 years (Asian Public Health Project Team, 2003). This age-distribution is similar to Māori and Pacific people, but Asians are younger (on average) than Europeans. The rapid growth of the Asian population has exposed a lack of policy and structures to evaluate and address their needs (Workshop Organising Team, 2005).

Access issues and underutilisation of mental health services

A survey examining health status in a large representative sample of Asian people (Scragg & Maitra, 2005) found that Asians underutilise health services:

  • Asian people were less likely than other New Zealanders, Māori and Pacific people to have visited a health practitioner (or service) when they were first unwell.
  • Asian people were less likely than Europeans to visit a health practitioner about a chronic disease (doctor, specialist, nurse or complementary healer).
  • Asian women were less likely than other New Zealand women to have had a mammogram or cervical screening test in the last three years.
  • Asians were less likely than all New Zealanders to use any type of telephone helpline in the last 12 months.
  • Asians also only wanted to see their general practitioner for a short term illness or a routine check up rather than visiting for an injury, poisoning, or for mental or emotional health reasons.

Another study found that barriers to accessing services for Chinese people included lack of language proficiency of respondents, lack of knowledge about civil rights and problems accessing general practitioners (DeSouza & Garrett, 2005).

This underutilisation is further reflected in mental health statistics. Of the 87,576 mental health clients seen by District Health Boards in 2002, only 1.9% were Asian despite making up over 6.5% of the population (New Zealand Health Information Service, 2005). This could in part be due to the bias of New Zealand’s migration policy which selects young and healthy migrants but it is clear that Asians underutilise mental health services and this does not necessarily mean that they are keeping well (Ho, Au, Bedford & Cooper, 2002). A study among recent Chinese migrants using the General Health Questionnaire found that 19% reported psychiatric morbidity (Abbott, Wong, Williams et al., 1999). A study of older Chinese migrants aged over 55 found that 26% showed depressive symptoms (Abbott, Wong, Giles et al., 2003). Lower emotional supports, greater number of visits to a doctor, difficulties in accessing health services and low understanding and engagement with New Zealand society increased the risk of developing depression. Interestingly, while participants with depressive symptoms consulted general practitioners more than their counterparts without such symptoms, they reported greater difficulty in accessing health services. Research with Asian migrants, refugees and student sojourners in New Zealand shows that social supports can assist newcomers to cope with the stresses of migration and reduce the risk of emotional disorder (Abbott et al., 1999). Conversely, research shows that language and cultural barriers can limit access to health services (Abbott et al., 1999; DeSouza & Garrett, 2005; Ngai, Latimer & Cheung, 2001).

Need for workforce development

The cultural competence of mental health staff for working with Asian consumers has not been researched. However, a recent project investigating the intercultural experiences of social workers in New Zealand found that contact with migrants, refugees or asylum seekers was infrequent, especially outside of Auckland (Nash & Trlin, 2004), but that the majority of social workers felt competent or better than competent in terms of working interculturally. Respondents recommended that further training in cross-cultural social work, staff training and better support services be available, in tandem with improvements in community services and the education of the host community to see new settlers as valuable additions to society. In another study, psychiatrists were surveyed by Johnstone and Read (2000), who found that out of 247 psychiatrists surveyed, only 40% believed that their training had prepared them to work effectively with Māori. Some of the suggested recommendations for improving how they worked with Māori included needing to understand Māori perspectives of well-being, and increasing the number of Māori professionals and Māori run services. Of psychiatrists who responded to the survey, 70% believed that there was a need to consult with Māori when working with Māori. A training package is being developed by University of Auckland, funded by the Health Research Council, to develop cultural competence in mental health staff working with Asians. Further development in this area is signalled in the next mental health action plan discussed later in this paper.

Omission in health research

Asian ethnic groups have been largely neglected by New Zealand health policies and research, despite their population growth (Duncan, Schofield, Duncan et al., 2004). Duncan et al. cite the example of the 2002 National Children’s Nutrition Survey, where both over-sampling and separate analysis of Māori and Pacific Island children occurred while Asian children were subsumed with New Zealand Europeans. Large-scale studies are needed to determine health risk across all major ethnic groups in New Zealand, which will in turn enable development of ethnic-specific data. Even more critical is the need for data concerning ethnic variation in other areas of health so that effective interventions can be developed and implemented (Duncan et al., 2004). This omission and exclusion is by no means a rare occurrence in national surveys and prevents the development of an understanding of the public health needs of Asian communities in New Zealand, necessary for the development of appropriate preventative health strategies.

Settlement issues

A report commissioned by the New Zealand Immigration service found that migrants had four areas of need: everyday needs, learning English, employment, and supportive connections (Ho, Cheung, Bedford & Leung, 2000). Factors such as unemployment or underemployment, having experienced discrimination in New Zealand, not having close friends, being unemployed and spending most of one’s time with one’s own ethnic group were predictors for poor adjustment among migrant groups (Pernice, Trlin, Henderson & North, 2000). In the last few years, a range of settlement programmes have been funded nationally with the development of an Immigration Settlement Strategy (New Zealand Immigration Service, 2003) for migrants, refugees and their families. The strategy’s six goals provide a broad base for enhancing wellbeing and include appropriate employment; confidence with using English or accessing appropriate language support; accessing appropriate information and responsive services; supportive social networks and sustainable community identity; expressing ethnic identity and acceptance and inclusion of the wider host community; and participation in activities.

Visible but invisible groups

The arrival of primarily Asian fee-paying students has had an impact on the education system, a greater importance to the national economy in terms of providing increased funding to educational institutions, and higher visibility in society in that most of the international students have come from China (International Division & Data Management and Analysis, 2005). Asian enrolment numbers rose by 318% over a five year period (1999-2003) to nearly 119,000, with an estimated economic value NZ$2.2 billion New Zealand dollars and providing 40,101 jobs (Infometrics, 2006). These numbers declined in the 2003-2004 period, leading to concern about the rapid development of the sector and raising the need for better quality assurance systems, which are now implemented through the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of Foreign Fee-Paying Students (Section 238H of the Education Act 1989). Levies paid by institutions with international students are used to support activities and projects relating to the export education industry such as promotion, communications, capability development, quality assurance, research and the administration of the Code (Ministry of Education, 2003). However, other than being able to use counselling services within their institutions, most international students are not entitled to access publicly funded (mental) health services while in New Zealand and are liable for the full costs of treatment unless they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act, and then only for the duration of that process. Once they are no longer under the Act, they are charged. Remaining voluntarily on an acute unit can incur a charge of approximately NZ$900 a day. International students are required to have appropriate and current medical and travel insurance while studying in New Zealand as a condition of enrolment (including mental health as long as it is not a pre-existing condition); however, insurance cover is capped at NZ$2,000 so if students need access to in-patient services they must cover their own costs.

The needs of long term settled communities have been brought into focus with the launch of the Asian Health Chart Book (Ministry of Health, 2006a) which demonstrates the need to focus not only on new migrants but also on longer-term settled migrant Asian communities. Major differences in health and health service use between recent migrants and longstanding migrants show that recent or first generation migrants have better health status than longstanding migrants or the New Zealand born, demonstrating the acculturative effects of the dominant culture.

Mental health services: Sailing in a new direction

Mental health services are responding to new migrant populations to varying degrees. Following on from a report on the mental health of Asians in New Zealand (Ho et al., 2002) has been an increased responsiveness to the needs of those communities (Yee, 2003). Research activity, information provision, collaboration and Asian-focused operational activities and policy are some of the strategies that are being used by government agencies (Yee, 2003). Other developments that will assist in meeting this gap include the New Zealand Mental Health Classification and Outcomes study (Gaines, Bower, Buckingham et al., 2003), which includes a small number of Asians, and a planned mental health epidemiological survey which will also assist but is currently limited to the two largest Asian communities, Indian and Chinese. This section briefly reviews national, regional and local developments and initiatives.

Developing visibility and responsiveness in mental health services

Asian researchers (Lim & Walker, 2006; Tse, Bhui, Thapliyal et al., 2005) have outlined the legislative and policy frameworks that support culturally sensitive mental health service provision. These include The Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1995 and the Health and Disability Code of Rights 1996 which require that services acknowledge the needs of people from a range of cultures and provide for these needs while also protecting culturally diverse people from coercion, discrimination and exploitation. A culturally sensitive approach and acknowledgement of the person’s cultural and ethnic identity, language, and religious or ethical beliefs is also advocated in the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 and the 1999 amendments. In addition, one of the objectives of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000 is that health outcomes be improved for Māori and other population groups through the reduction of health disparities. The Human Rights Act 1993 requires that mental health and addiction services do not unlawfully discriminate on the grounds of culture and ethnicity. Lastly, the Health Professional Competency Assurance Act 2003 requires practitioners to demonstrate cultural competence.

National mental health strategy and recovery

Te Tāhuhu – Improving Mental Health 2005-2015: The Second New Zealand Mental Health and Addiction Plan (Ministry of Health, 2005b) builds on the current Mental Health Strategy contained in

* Looking Forward: Strategic Directions for the Mental Health Services (Ministry of Health, 1994); * Moving Forward: The National Mental Health Plan for More and Better Services (Ministry of Health, 1997); and * The Mental Health Commission’s Blueprint for Mental Health Services in New Zealand: How Things Need to Be (Mental Health Commission, 1998).

Te Tāhuhu acknowledges that ‘there is no national strategy or policy to address the mental health issues of the full range of ethnic groups living in New Zealand. Building stronger relationships with people from diverse cultures and ethnic groups will be essential as we work towards developing strategies to address their particular needs’ (Ministry of Health, 2005b, p.37). Te Tāhuhu focuses on developing a comprehensive integrated mental health and addiction system that provides hope for developing a multicultural mental health agenda, compared to the other documents that make specific cultural mention of Māori and Pacific peoples but minimal reference to other groups. Te Tāhuhu emphasises early access to effective primary health care (a key entry point to mental health services for Asians), and an improved range and quality of specialist community based mental health and addiction services built on collaborative relationships (Ministry of Health, 2005b). It covers the spectrum of interventions from promotion/prevention to primary care to specialist services, and in particular the draft action plan (Ministry of Health, 2006b)

* acknowledges the presence not only of Asian peoples but also migrants and refugees, and the need for mental health services to be able to respond to the unique needs of all New Zealanders; * acknowledges the need for responsiveness to Asian peoples and other ethnic communities and refugee and migrant communities; * aims to build a quality mental health and addiction workforce that supports recovery, is person centered, and is culturally capable to deliver services for Asian peoples (that will require new skills and areas of specialised knowledge); * aims to strengthen the cultural capability of workers in mainstream services to work effectively with Asian, refugee and migrant populations through training programmes; * aims to increase the understanding of the mental health and addiction needs of Asian, ethnic, refugee and migrant communities through developing a profile of their mental health, and developing a mental health and addiction research agenda; * aims to implement national and local training for the mental health services workforce to work more effectively with them and use research evidence in service planning and delivery; and * aims to develop culturally responsive problem gambling intervention services for Asian peoples.

In addition, The Mental Health Commission’s Recovery Competencies for Mental Health Workers (O’Hagan, 2001) requires that a competent mental health worker acknowledges the different cultures of Aotearoa/New Zealand and knows how to provide a service in partnership with them. It suggests that every mental health and addiction service worker should demonstrate:

  • knowledge of diversity within Asian cultures;
  • knowledge of Asian culture, for example importance of family, religious traditions, duty, respect for authority, honour, shame and harmony;
  • the ability to articulate Asian views on health;
  • knowledge of traditional Asian treatments;
  • and the ability to involve Asian families, communities and service users in services.

In response to a report on Asian Public Health (Asian Public Health Project Team, 2003) the Mental Health Foundation have also created information sheets written in Chinese as a step towards meeting the mental health needs of Asians. They focus in particular on the mental health needs of Chinese adults and older Korean people. The emphasis on Chinese recognises that they comprise the largest of all Asian ethnic groups and the high number of Chinese international students in New Zealand, particularly in Auckland.

The potential of broader health policy

Developments in population based health policy offer promise in addressing barriers to accessing services by Asian communities. The New Zealand Health Strategy (NZHS) guides the development and provision of new services in the health and disability sector to improve the health of New Zealanders (Ministry of Health, 2000). Administered through District Health Boards (DHBs), the strategy aims to reduce inequalities in health status for Māori, Pacific peoples and people from lower socio-economic groups. It claims to focus on quality of service in order to ensure health outcomes are improved and health disparities reduced. There is scant reference to migrant health in the NZHS, other than a recommendation ‘to assess the health needs of refugees, asylum seekers and Asian immigrants’ (Ministry of Health, 2000, p.47) without any attempt to explain how this might be achieved.

A key strand of the NZHS involves improving responsiveness in the field of primary care. Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) have been established as ‘community-led’ organisations that guide the development of local services and their role defined in the Primary Health Care Strategy (Ministry of Health, 2001). The governance model is intended to involve local people in the planning and delivery of local primary health care services. This promotes the role of health workers as being to reduce health inequalities and address the causes of poor health status. Whilst accessibility, affordability and co-ordination are key, there is no mention of Asian and migrant populations in the strategy, which aligns with the NZHS focus on Māori, Pacific populations and lower socio-economic groups. The needs of Asian communities in New Zealand will need to be proactively considered given their projected population growth and evidence of different health needs to the wider population. Findings from the Asian Health Chart Book (Ministry of Health, 2006a) show that Asian people had positive health outcomes on a range of health indicators compared to the total New Zealand population. Of concern, however, was the lower usage of health services by the Asian population. The report provides a useful baseline on Asian health and it is hoped that it helps in identifying the health needs of Asian peoples in New Zealand and that it will be a tool for Asian communities themselves to advocate for appropriate health services.

Regional developments

The Northern Region Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Direction 2005-2010 (Northern DHB Support Agency & Network North Coalition, 2004) has two foci for its vision. The first is a specific focus on ‘equal opportunity to access quality services delivered in a culturally appropriate manner for refugee and recent Asian migrant clients and families’ and the second is ‘access to professionally trained and qualified interpreting services to meet the needs of migrant and refugees with experience of mental illness and their families’ (p.22). Recently a project was developed for training Asian interpreters and mental health practitioners who provide secondary mental health services for the diverse Asian immigrant population in the Auckland region, focussing on cultural competency and appropriate skills to work together effectively (Lim & Walker, 2006).

Local developments

At a local level, the twenty-one District Health Boards (DHBs) are responsible for deciding on the mix, level and quality of health and disability services to be provided for populations within government-set parameters. Some specialised mental health services, for example the ‘Refugees as Survivors’ (RAS) centres have been established, while others have developed ‘transcultural’ teams with clinicians who have an interest in the area or Asian mental health workers. Asian peer support workers are employed by consumer run organisations such as Mind and Body consultants to support Asian users of Auckland District Health Board Mental Health Services. There are also two Chinese consumers’ self-help groups: Bo Ai She and Yu Ai She. Community Alcohol and Drug services have two Chinese counsellors and non-governmental organisations (NGO) have begun responding to the needs of Asians by employing Chinese staff in community and family support roles such as Action for Mental Health Services, Supporting Families and Affinity. In the Auckland DHB there are two Asian community support workers with a focus on psychiatric rehabilitation. A great many of the developments have been in response to advocacy from ethnic community members and a desire to increase responsiveness to presenting clients.

Learning from the experience of Pacific peoples

There is much that newer migrant groups and mainstream services can learn from the experience of Pacific peoples, who are a diverse group representing over 20 different cultures. The largest group are Samoan making up 50% of Pacific peoples, followed by Cook Islanders (23%), Tongans (16%), Niueans (9%) Fijians (4%) and Tokelauans (2%) (self-identified; more than one response possible) (Mental Health Commission, 2001). A youthful population concentrated in the Auckland region with smaller numbers scattered throughout the country (Ministry of Health, 2005a), Pacific peoples make up 6% of the New Zealand population, which will rise to 12% by the year 2051. Pacific migration to New Zealand after the second world war increased as a result of growing industrialisation and demands for a manufacturing and service industry workforce (Spoonley, 2001). Large numbers of Pacific people migrated to urban areas of New Zealand, accelerating in the 1960s and early 1970s (Spoonley, 2001). The mid-1970s economic downturn led to many Pacific people losing their jobs. Unemployment, low income, poor housing, the breakdown of extended family networks, cultural fragmentation, and rising alcohol and drug problems have had a significant impact on the mental health of Pacific peoples, with rates of mental illness being generally higher among Pacific males and Pacific older people than the rest of the population (Ministry of Health, 2005a). However, Pacific peoples are a little less likely to use mental health services than any other group in New Zealand (Ministry of Health, 2005a).

Innovative health models such as the ‘Fonofale’ created by Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann (Crawley, Pulotu-Endemann, Stanley-Findlay & New Zealand Ministry of Health, 1995) have promoted holism and continuity. Similar to Durie’s (1994) Te Whare Tapa Wha, the Fonofale model uses the metaphor of a Pacific Island house and incorporates the values and beliefs of various Pacific Island groups. In addition, two key mechanisms have been advanced to improve social and economic outcomes for Pacific peoples. These are to improve ‘the responsiveness and accountability of public sector agencies to Pacific health needs and priorities, and to build the capacity of Pacific peoples, through provider, workforce and professional development, to deliver health and disability services and to develop their own solutions to health issues’ (Mental Health Commission, 2001, p.15). The key agencies in this task are The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, the Ministry of Health, District Health Boards and the Mental Health Commission. Other strategies are that services for Pacific peoples should: include Pacific views of mental health and wellbeing (which also includes all other aspects of health); take into account the relatively young Pacific population; acknowledge that there are isolated communities throughout New Zealand; consider the socioeconomic status of Pacific peoples; consider the diverse needs of New Zealand-born versus Island-born people and people of mixed ethnicity; and include the issue of alcohol and other drug use. In parallel, mainstream providers need to incorporate practices that properly address the above issues which will require building networks with Pacific organisations and groups able to advise on culturally acceptable methods of treatment (Mental Health Commission, 2001).

Conclusion: Exploring uncharted waters

Parts of the journey ahead are charted clearly. There are legislative and policy imperatives in place for mental health services to ensure that they are responsive in both policy and practice for ‘migrants, refugees and Asians’. How this is operationalised varies around the country but developments are promising, particularly in Auckland where the population of Asians is 12%. However, there are murky waters ahead that must be navigated. Further discussion is needed about the terms ‘migrants, refugees and Asians’ which are referred to in Te Tāhuhu and are an attempt at inclusion. The diversity contained within labels will have to be disentangled, so that the needs of the diverse people within labels such as ‘migrants, refugees and Asians’ are identified. Consideration must also be given to the needs of long term settled ethnic communities and international students, both of whom are neglected. Diving even deeper, the intersection of ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status needs exploration. Consideration also needs to be given to how we work with the ‘buzz words’ such as cultural safety, cultural capability, cultural awareness and cultural competence and how they sit together (DeSouza, 2004b, 2006; Wood, Bradley & DeSouza, 2004).

Finally, a more strategic response to New Zealand’s changing demographics is required as until now the majority of developments have been ad hoc, reactive and operational, based on lobbying from ethnic community groups and non-governmental organisations such that responses are geared to our current situation rather than our future. It is necessary to address the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in the context of how multiculturalism is to be accommodated. Some see biculturalism as an obstacle to the acknowledgement of a more diverse society; however, I suggest that multiculturalism through biculturalism remains a possible solution that has been under-explored and under-operationalised. Future developments in Asian, migrant and refugee health need to heed the unique status of Māori and learn from the experiences of Pacific peoples, who have charted these waters already and know the currents and prevailing winds.

References

Abbott, M.W., Wong, S., Williams, M., Au, M.K. & Young, W. (1999). Chinese migrants’ mental health and adjustment to life in New Zealand. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 33(1), 13-21.

Abbott, M.W., Wong, S., Giles, L.C. Wong, S., Young, W. & Au, M. (2003). Depression in older Chinese migrants to Auckland. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 37(4), 445-51.

Asian Public Health Project Team (2003). Asian Public Health Project Report. Auckland: Ministry of Health Public Health Directorate.

Bartley, A. & Spoonley, P. (2004). Constructing a workable multiculturalism in a bicultural society. In M. Belgrave, M. Kawharu & D.V. Williams (Eds.), Waitangi Revisited: Perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi (2nd edition, pp. 136-148). Auckland, N.Z.: Oxford University Press.

Beaglehole, A. (2005, 11 July 2005). Immigration Regulation. Retrieved 8 October 2005, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/NewZealanders/NewZealandPeoples/ImmigrationRegulation/en

Crawley, L., Pulotu-Endemann, F.K., Stanley-Findlay, R.T.U. & New Zealand Ministry of Health. (1995). Strategic Directions for the Mental Health Services for Pacific Islands People. Wellington, N.Z.: Ministry of Health.

Curnow, A. (1997). Early Days Yet: New and Collected Poems 1941 – 1997. Auckland: AUP.

DeSouza, R. (2004a). The art of walking upright here: Realising a multi-cultural society. Paper presented at the Kiwi Indian Seminar Series, Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand..

DeSouza, R. (2004b). Working with refugees and migrants. In D. Wepa (Ed.), Cultural Safety (pp. 122-133). Auckland: Pearson Education New Zealand.

DeSouza, R. (2006). Pregnant with possibility: Migrant motherhood in New Zealand. MindNet, http://www.mindnet.org.nz/synopsis.php?issueno=6&articleno=100

DeSouza, R. & Garrett, N. (2005). Access Issues for Chinese People in New Zealand. Auckland: Auckland University of Technology and Accident Compensation Corporation.

Duncan, E., Schofield, G., Duncan, S., Kolt, G. & Rush, E. (2004). Ethnicity and body fatness in New Zealanders. New Zealand Medical Journal, 117(1195), U913.

Durie, M. (1994). Whaiora: Maori Health Development. Auckland: Oxford University Press.

Gaines, P., Bower, A., Buckingham, B., Eagar, K., Burgess, P. & Green, J. (2003). New Zealand Mental Health Classification and Outcomes Study: Final report. Auckland: Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Ho, E., Au, S., Bedford, C. & Cooper, J. (2002). Mental Health Issues for Asians in New Zealand: A Literature Review (Commissioned by the Mental Health Commission). Waikato: University of Waikato.

Ho, E., Cheung, E., Bedford, C. & Leung, P. (2000). Settlement Assistance Needs of Recent Migrants (Commissioned by the NZIS). Waikato: University of Waikato.

Infometrics (2006). The Economic Impact of Foreign Fee-Paying Students. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

International Division & Data Management and Analysis (2005). The New Zealand International Education Sector: Trends from 1999 to 2004. Wellington: Ministry of Education,. Ip, M. (2005). Chinese. Retrieved 3 June 2006, from http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/NewZealanders/NewZealandPeoples/Chinese/en

Johnstone, K. & Read, J. (2000). Psychiatrists’ recommendations for improving bicultural training and Maori mental health services: A New Zealand survey. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 34(1), 135-145.

Lim, S. & Walker, R. (2006). Asian Mental Health Interpreter Workforce Development Project: Report on Curricula & Guidelines Development for Asian Interpreters and Mental Health Practitioners to Work Effectively Together. Auckland: Northern DHB Support Agency.

Mental Health Commission (1998). Blueprint for Mental Health Services in New Zealand: How Things Need to Be. Wellington: Mental Health Commission.

Mental Health Commission (2001). Pacific Mental Health Services and Workforce: Moving on the Blueprint. Wellington: Mental Health Commission.

Ministry of Education (2003). Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students. Retrieved 19 April 2005, from http://www.minedu.govt.nz/index.cfm?layout=document&documentid=6902&indexid=6666&indexparentid=6663

Ministry of Health (1994). Looking Forward – Strategic Directions for the Mental Health Services. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health (1997). Moving Forward: The National Mental Health Plan for More and Better Services. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health (2000). The New Zealand Health Strategy. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health (2001). The Primary Health Care Strategy. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health (2005a). Te Orau Ora – Pacific Mental Health Profile, Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health (2005b). Te Tāhuhu: Improving Mental Health 2005-2015: The Second New Zealand Mental Health and Addiction Plan. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health (2006a). Asian Health Chart Book 2006. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health (2006b). Draft Action Plan Te Tāhuhu – Improving Mental Health 2005-2015: The Second New Zealand Mental Health and Addiction Plan. Wellington: Ministry Of Health.

Mohanram, R. (1998). (In)visible bodies? Immigrant bodies and constructions of nationhood in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. In R. D. Plessis & L. Alice (Eds.), Feminist Thought in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Connections and Differences (pp. 21-29). Auckland: Oxford University Press.

Nash, M. & Trlin, A. (2004). Social Work with Immigrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers in New Zealand. Palmerston North: New Settlers Programme, Massey University.

New Zealand Immigration Service (2003). New Zealand Settlement Strategy Outline. Retrieved 18 March 2005, from http://www.immigration.govt.nz/community/stream/support/nzimmigrationsettlementstrategy/

New Zealand Health Information Service (2005). Mental Health: Service Use in New Zealand 2002. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ngai, M.M.Y., Latimer, S. & Cheung, V.Y.M. (2001). Healthcare Needs of Asian People: Surveys of Asian People and Health Professionals in the North and West Auckland. Takapuna: Asian Health Support Service, Waitemata District Health Board.

Northern DHB Support Agency & Network North Coalition (2004). Northern Region Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Direction 2005-2010. Auckland: Northern DHB Support Agency.

O’Hagan, M. (2001). Recovery Competencies for New Zealand Mental Health Workers. Wellington: Mental Health Commission.

Pernice, R., Trlin, A., Henderson, A. & North, N. (2000). Employment and mental health of three groups of immigrants to New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 29(1), 24-29.

Rasanathan, K., Craig, D. & Perkins, R. (2004). Is ‘Asian’ a useful category for health research in New Zealand? Paper presented at the Inaugural International Asian Health Conference: Asian Health and Wellbeing, Now and into the Future, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Scragg, R. & Maitra, A. (2005). Asian Health in Aotearoa: An Analysis of the 2002-2003 New Zealand Health Survey. Auckland: The Asian Network Incorporated.

Spoonley, P. (2001). Transnational Pacific communities: Transforming the politics of place and identity. In C. Macpherson, P. Spoonley & M. Anae (Eds.), Tangata o Te Moana Nui: The Evolving Identities of Pacific Peoples in Aotearoa/New Zealand (pp. 81-96). Palmerston North, N.Z.: Dunmore.

Statistics New Zealand (2002a). 2001 Census: Asian People. Retrieved 25 January 2005, from http://www.stats.govt.nz/people/communities/asianpeople.htm

Statistics New Zealand (2002b). Census Snapshot: Cultural Diversity. Retrieved 25 January 2005, from http://www.stats.govt.nz/products-and-services/Articles/census-snpsht-cult-diversity-Mar02.htm

Swarbrick, N. (2005). Indians. Retrieved 8 October, 2005, from http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/NewZealanders/NewZealandPeoples/Indians/en

Thakur, R. (1995). In defence of multiculturalism. In S. W. Greif (Ed.), Immigration and National Identity in New Zealand: One People, Two Peoples, Many Peoples. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.

Tse, S., Bhui, K., Thapliyal, A., Choy, N. & Bray, Y. (2005). Asian Mental Health Workforce Development Feasibility Project. Auckland: The Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Walker, R. (1995). Immigration policy and the political economy of New Zealand. In S. W. Greif (Ed.), Immigration and National Identity in New Zealand: One People, Two Peoples, Many Peoples. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.

Wittman, L. (1998). ‘I live a fragmented life’: Cultural identity as perceived by New Zealand Jewish women. In R. Du Plessis & L. Alice (Eds.), Feminist Thought in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Connections and Differences (pp. 57-68). Auckland: Oxford University Press.

Wood, P., Bradley, P. & DeSouza, R. (2004). Mental Health in Australia and New Zealand. In R. Elder, K. Evans & D. Nizette (Eds.), Practical Perspectives in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing (pp. 80-98). New South Wales: Elsevier Australia.

Workshop Organising Team (2005). Issues And Options Paper: The Use Of The Term ‘Asian’ in New Zealand and Implications for Research, Policy Development and Community Engagement. Retrieved 12 December 2005.

Yee, B. (2003). Asian Mental Health Recovery – Follow Up to the Asian Report. Wellington: Mental Health Commission.

Citation: DeSouza, R. (2006). Sailing in a new direction: Multicultural mental health in New Zealand. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health 5(2) www.auseinet.com/journal/vol5iss2/desouza.pdf

How is your Central Helping System?

First published in Mindnet Issue 11 – Spring 2007
Recently I’ve come through a series of life changing stresses and learned what true love; friendship and personal strength were about. In particular the words of wise Rabbi Hillel, a Jewish scholar & theologian who lived from 30 BC – 9 AD have been a source of inspiration for a previously uncharted journey: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg suggest using these questions to prompt you on a daily basis. Despite being written so long ago, these words have stood the test of time and got me thinking about how we can maintain good mental health amidst transition and change. Two transitions that have occupied a great deal of my energy and interest have been the transition to parenthood and the transition to living in a new country.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

Starting with question one, If I am not for myself, who will be for me? Baker argues that we have to take good care of ourselves and begin by having a good relationship with ourselves and being our own best friend. There are some things that only we can do for ourselves and some things that we can delegate. They recommend asking yourself further questions every day: such as what I have done to take care of my body, mind and spirit today? Both new parents and new migrants experience the loss of otherwise familiar reference points. New mothers face the demands of an unpredictable gamut of demands for a baby whose needs are all-consuming and leave little time or energy for focusing on oneself. For a migrant, the loss of a “village” and familiar things, places and processes often leads to a quest for belonging and clarification of values and purpose. Both transitions offer the potential of transformation provided resources and support are in place, but accessing them can often be difficult.

If I am not for others, what am I?

Question two leads us from taking care of ourselves to taking care of others. If I am not for others, what am I? Research evidence is growing that social support is critical to successful coping through enhancing resilience, buffering the impact of stress and assisting in the maintenance of positive mental health. Social support encompasses four key attributes emotional (e.g. providing empathy, caring, love, and trust), instrumental (e.g. aid in kind, money, labour, time, and modifying environment), informational (e.g. advice, suggestions, directives, and information) and appraisal (e.g. affirmation, feedback (Toljamo & Hentinen, 2001) and results in improved mental health (Finfgeld-Connett, 2005 ). Often support starts with one’s immediate family and then to friendships termed ‘central helping system’ by (Canavan & Dolan 2000 cited in (Pinkerton & Dolan, 2007)) and often it is only when this support is exhausted, weak or unavailable that people approach more formal sources of support.

In terms of my two professional interests, I have found that when people migrate they frequently lose their support networks and when people welcome a new baby into their family they frequently have to develop alternative support networks. Social support is characterised by reciprocity and mutuality and involves the exchange of resources between people that enhance the well-being of both. When we are supported and become part of a network of communication and mutual obligation we can begin to believe that we are cared for, loved and valued (Hupcey, 1998).

If not now, then when?

Question three asks us “if not now, then when?” This is where a focus on the present moment becomes highlighted. For so many of us the focus is on the future. For the new migrant it can be about “when I get the job that recognises my qualifications and worth then I can start enjoying my life in this new country”. For a new parent it might be “when I can sleep through the night I’ll start enjoying being a parent”. How can we feel good in ourselves, when things feel out of control, unresolved and unresolvable? Mindfulness, a Buddhist concept based on becoming aware of the moment and living fully in it regardless of how pleasant or unpleasant it is can lead to transforming that reality and your relationship to it (Kabat-Zinn, 1993). Ultimately there is very little we can do about what has already happened or determine the future, but the likelihood of a wonderful future is enhanced by thoroughly enjoying the present.

Mental health awareness week

Which leads me to the theme of this year’s mental health awareness week, good mental wellbeing can come from:

  • Celebrating our uniqueness
  • Connecting with each other
  • Supporting others in their journey
  • Sharing our stories

So how can we celebrate our uniqueness when there is little to support our identity? How can we connect with each other, when we are isolated? How can we supporting others in their journey, when we ourselves are un-resourced? How can we share our stories if there is no one to listen?

Key points to consider for mental health and health promotion workers and organisations.

There is a need for mental health service providers to both safeguard quality care and ensure continual improvement of the quality of their services by creating an environment where they, their colleagues, their clients and family members can flourish. One of my own favourite strategies is supervision which helps me both with my self-care, self-development and ensuring I get the support that I need. It also helps me develop and increase my knowledge, understanding and skills. Again I’d like to reiterate Rabbi Hillel’s first question. How can we truly care for others if we don’t care for ourselves? Self-care is so under-rated, but if you are a mental health worker ask yourself: How do we I look after myself and cultivate my own wellness? And how can I practice what I preach?

In terms of your own support network. How can you avoid working in isolation? How can you get the support that you need? If you aren’t thinking about this it can be difficult to consider the needs of people and groups that require support to remain socially included. How do you encourage clients/tangata whai ora to use and enhance their own personal support networks? In reflecting on Hillel’s third question, consider how can you be fully present with your mahi. How can you be so fully engaged in your work that it provides a well of energy that is renewable and deeply satisfying so that you don’t get burned out. How can you ensure that your work and efforts are sustainable? For me it goes back to attending to myself regularly, meeting my own needs, considering my own health and well being.

My central helping system undergoes continuous refinement but what I have realised is that it requires me to first have a relationship with myself. Only then can I have an effective relationship with anyone else. Then ensuring that I have a support network in which reciprocity reigns and lastly being fully present with myself (not always easy). Rabbi Hillel’s questions provide a useful starting point for considering our own mental health and of those who are part of our lives personal and professional. Attending to these three questions provides us with accessible resources for mental well being.

REFERENCES

Finfgeld-Connett, D. (2005 ). Clarification of social support. Journal of Nursing Scholarship 37(1 4).

Hupcey, J. E. (1998). Clarifying the social support theory-research linkage. Journal of Advanced Nursing 27(6), 1231.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1993). Mindfulness meditation: Health benefits of an ancient Buddhist practice. In D. Goleman & J. Gurin (Eds.), Mind, body medicine : how to use your mind for better health (pp. 259–276). Yonkers, N.Y.: Consumer Reports Books.

Pinkerton, J., & Dolan, P. (2007). Family support, social capital, resilience and adolescent coping. Child & Family Social Work, 12(3), 219.

Toljamo, M., & Hentinen, M. (2001). Adherence to self-care and social support. Journal of Clinical Nursing 10(5), 618.

How can nurses truly celebrate cultural diversity?

Editorial published in Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand 13.4 (May 2007): p2(1).

American feminist psychologist and theorist Carol Gilligan once said that without voice there cannot be relationship, and without relationship there cannot be voice. (1) How do we have relationships with people who are different from us? How do we and the other person have a voice in the relationship, if we don’t know what our common ground is?

The 2006 Census reveals European New Zealanders make up 67.6 percent of the population, 14.6 percent of people self-identify as Maori, Pacific peoples make up 6.9 percent of the population, Asians 9.2 percent and Middle Eastern, Latin American and African people, 0.9 percent. (2) The Census also revealed that nearly 23 per cent of New Zealand’s population was born overseas, compared with 19.5 per cent in 2001. In terms of religious affiliation, 55 per cent said they were Christian, down from 60.6 per cent in 2001. And 1.3 million New Zealanders said they had no religion. The number of Hindus increased by 61.8 percent to 64,392, Muslims went up 52.6 percent to 36,072 people and the number of Sikhs was 9507, up 83 percent. (2)

This religious and cultural diversity has implications for nurses and those we care for. How do we have relationships with people of different cultures and religions? How can we, as nurses, cultivate relationships and ensure we have a voice, and ensure our colleagues and clients who are “diverse”, have a voice too? What does celebrating cultural diversity actually mean for nurses, other than taking part in a cultural festival or having friends from diverse backgrounds? What does it mean for systems that are primarily monocultural and are striving to be bicultural? And what does that mean for the increasing number of people from diverse ethno-religious communities?

New Zealand has a long history of migration, but the range and number of migrants in New Zealand has been on an unparalleled scale since 1987. With that have come demographic changes. I recently gave a two-hour talk about diversity, and afterwards a nurse asked “What about our (Pakeha) identity? What is going to happen to it?” She is not the only person worded about the loss of identity, as witnessed by the cry “What has happened to my country?” in letters to the editor and heard on talkback radio. For those of us who have migrated here, it is hard to understand why people from the dominant culture feel marginalised, when we are surrounded by Pakeha/white New Zealand culture, in terms of all the institutions and power bearers.

Interaction rather than co-existence

These concerns highlight a need for dialogue and I am reminded of the work of Lebanese-Australian anthropology professor, Ghassan Hage, who suggests the way forward is through interaction, rather than co-existence. (3) When we co-exist, we can idealise or demonise the other, but never really get to know them. But when we interact, it requires us to move forward in relationship, even when it is tough and frustrating. There are potential gifts of working from a place of interaction and these occur when we can say “Let’s take the best of both/many cultures and see what new and wonderful things we can create”.

Richard Florida has written about the creative class where new ideas and technologies have been developed in the United States as a result of attracting the best and the brightest from around the world and harnessing the creativity inherent in diversity. (4) This is where interaction comes in–we have to rub up against one another, experience conflict and find a way forward for creativity to kick in.

To harness such potential in health in New Zealand we need to address the political and policy Landscape of health. Nursing Council statistics show that migrant nurses made up 51 percent of new registrations in 2005-2006. (5) This percentage raises many questions: What do we have in place to assist the effective integration of new migrant nurses? What is good practice for those who employ migrant nurses? Who is responsible for ensuring that this happens well? What support mechanisms need to be in place to create innovation in health? How do receiving nurses create new spaces and places for cultural diversity?

Migration has always had an element of economic necessity, a tap which could be turned on and off, as and when we needed more labour. But, increasingly, receiving countries are beginning to realise people don’t just migrate for a job. They migrate for a life and for their dreams and aspirations. This means they put down roots and settle and want a home and a voice in their new country. In the short-term period of settlement, it is about such things as getting a job, financial independence, establishing a social network and adapting to various aspects of lifestyle. In the long-term period of integration, it is about career advancement, income parity, accessing institutions, redefining cultural identity, adapting or reassessing values, and participating in political parties and socio-political movements.

I have a number of suggestions about how we move forward with diversity: use it for our creative endeavours; see newcomers as a source of innovation; along with maintaining our obligations to Maori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, ensure all who live in Aotearoa/New Zealand enjoy equitable access to services and enjoy equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities to participate in, contribute to and benefit from all aspects of life. Finally, recognise that we all share responsibility for the continuing development of Aotearoa New Zealand as a cohesive and harmonious society. Contributing to our own communities and venturing outside them, would be a great start.

References

(1) Gilligan, C. (1982) In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

(2) New Zealand’s 2006 Census of Populatino and Dwellings. (2006) 2006 Census Date. Statistics New Zealand. http://www.stats.govt.nz.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/census/default/htm. Retrieved 20/04/07.

(3) Hage, G. (2002) Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society. Australia: Pluto Press.

(4) Florida, R. (2002) The Rise of the Creative Class and How it’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Creative-Class-Transforming-Community/dp/ 0465024769. Retrieved 20/04/07.

(5) Clark, M. and Ayling, B. (2006) Workforce Statistics 2006 Update. Presentation to Nursing Council Forums. http://www.nursingcouncil.org.nz/forum.html. Retrieved 20/04/07.

“How can nurses truly celebrate cultural diversity?” Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand 13.4 (2007): 2.