Clearhead develops te reo platform to better support māori mental health

16 September 2020

Clearhead develops te reo platform to better support māori mental health

Clearhead, a Kiwi digital mental health company has today launched its translated te reo Māori website and chatbot offering in partnership with us and nib foundation, designed to help reduce the barriers Māori communities often face when accessing mental health services.

Māori populations are consistently over-represented in New Zealand’s suicide statistics, are twice as likely to experience mental health issues compared to non-Māori, and 1.5 times as likely to report experiencing anxiety or depression.

As a global first for any digital mental health service to support an indigenous language, the translation marks an important step towards providing culturally inclusive resources to support the health and wellbeing of one of our most vulnerable communities.

Clearhead CEO, Dr Angela Lim says that while Māori are disproportionately represented in the public mental health system, the resources available do not necessarily take a user-centric approach of how Maori would prefer to access these resources and support.

“Māori make up 40 percent of patients in the public mental health system, yet only around three percent of clinical staff in the sector identify as Māori, and an even smaller number are fluent in te reo Māori. To some, te reo is a fundamental part of their identity – and yet we face significant challenges in delivering culturally appropriate services to this community,” Dr.Lim said.

“In order to improve mental health outcomes for Māori, utilising digital solutions where we can provide anonymity, flexibility, affordability and overcome geographical barriers can be a viable solution. We hope our platform can assist in improving reach and engagement for Māori seeking mental health support and provide that safe place where they feel heard,” Dr Lim added.

With the new platform launching during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) Clearhead’s aim is to highlight the importance culture has on one’s mental health and wellbeing. Research from the Mental Health Foundation has demonstrated that a strong cultural identity – including a connection with Māoritanga and te reo within Māori communities – is linked to positive wellbeing and a reduced risk of suicide.

Petera Hakiwai, of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata and Kāi Tahu descent, and a lecturer at Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT), who was integral in operationalising the te reo Māori platform says “Māori are very private when it comes to their health and wellbeing. It’s critical that they have access to suitable support services and so having a digital, private and culturally appropriate offering available in te reo Māori is encouraging and can be really empowering.”

Petera was only 22 years old when he was chosen to speak on behalf of Kahungunu at the annual coronation of the Māori king. “We are at a point with the revitalisation of te reo Māori, where we need to continue to provide opportunities where it can be utilised in everyday scenarios. Clearhead’s chatbot allows this sort of interaction, so I’m thrilled to be able to help bring this valuable resource to life.”

The development of the te reo Māori site was made possible as part of our wider $60,000 support package with nib foundation, which also enabled Clearhead to offer a secure and safe telehealth platform for mental health professionals to continue delivering therapy during the COVID-19 lockdown.

nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe, says “To offer a mental health platform designed for Māori and developed in collaboration with Māori helps to address some of the core health inequities faced by the community, ensuring greater access to health tools and technology in a culturally appropriate setting.”

“We hope through increased accessibility, our funding support can help to reduce the barriers faced by all Kiwi communities when seeking support to help prevent both immediate and lasting health impacts – especially as we navigate through COVID-19,” Mrs Tribe said.

Clearhead will be incorporating more Māori models of care into future platform developments. The platform is also set to introduce other tools, such as guided mindfulness sessions that will help people reconnect with whenua (land) by engaging all their senses in their wellbeing journey.

Clearhead has seen steady user increase since the COVID-19 lockdown in March. Prior to the pandemic, the platform serviced around 1,000 monthly users, a figure which has grown to more than 8,000 in August. Key areas which saw significant uplift in new enquiries were around suicidal thinking (8 percent to 37 percent), anxiety (13 percent to 62 percent), loneliness (9 percent to 30 percent), financial difficulties (2 percent to 20 percent) and problematic alcohol use (7 percent to 18 percent).

To check out Clearhead’s te reo Māori site visit, www.clearhead.org.nz/mi