Putting caring into mental health care


Bachelor of Arts student Shailah Anderson has developed a self-care package for people dealing with gaps in mental health care.


In a mental health crisis sometimes you need to buy time till help is available, so a Massey University student has come up with a self help care package that could help get people through crucial hours or days.

The care package is part of a practical help project Shailah Anderson, Ngāti Kahungunu Tūwharetoa, Maniapoto, Ngāpuhi, is developing through the national Tuia rangatahi leadership programme run by the Mayors’ Taskforce for Jobs.

The programme teams up selected young people around the country with mayors who mentor their charges over a year. Ms Anderson is working with Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith and she says she was surprised when he brought up the issue of teen suicide in one of their first meetings and opened a space to feel normal and safe to talk about a topic still seen as a taboo.

She says her project is built not only on her studies but her own experiences with mental health issues and gaps in mental health care. The Bachelor of Arts student is in her second year studying Psychology and Māori studies at Massey University and says her project aims to give people free tools to access help and hold on until that help is available.

“I’ve found that mental health services often require people to be at a certain level of distress before they step in and that can be dangerous.” 

She envisages a care package containing an array of sensory things such as perfume, and stress balls to distract the hands and mind and offer even momentary respite. She’s also looking to design a diary that includes coloring pages for distraction, blank pages for reflection, questions for appointments and other useful information.

Ms Anderson says; “It’s designed to buy time when someone is alone at night or waiting for an appointment in case they don’t think they can make it through the next hour or day.”

Having experienced both good and bad mental health care, Ms Anderson also wants to make it easier for people to connect with the right help. She says the current Manawatū/Horowhenua Mental Health Directory at 100 pages can be overwhelming. She’d like to develop an App that would use a questionnaire to match people to the most suitable services to them.

Ms Anderson admits getting her project designed and funded is a major challenge but she’s confident with guidance from the Tuia programme she can find people who will help.

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