As the first Pasefika person to become a mental health nurse practitioner, Makoni Havea is determined to make a difference for her community.
“I can help with mental and physical health problems. I want to provide a service where they don’t need to see lots of people.
In her role the PSA member undertakes comprehensive assessments, diagnosis and prescriptions.
The holistic care she provides can be seen in the assistance she gave to a patient who was running out of medication but struggling to get an appointment with a doctor.
“I was able to consult with the GP over the phone and provide a script so they didn’t have to wait for another appointment and pay another fee.”
Working at Counties Manukau DHB Child & Adolescent Community Mental Health, Makoni sees a huge need for mental health services in Pasefika communities.
She says she has experienced some of the stresses in her own life that are affecting the mental health and well-being of Pasefika people.
“We immigrated when I was a teenager. We were raised by my Dad and extended family, living in overcrowded housing.”
But Makoni says mental health is often an unspoken issue for Pasefika people.
“It’s tapu in some families to talk about mental health. It is challenging to speak with them but I say you can get help, you don’t need to feel ashamed. It is ok to talk about these things.”
However, Makoni also felt a sense of tapu about telling her family she was working in mental health as it was not a subject that was discussed growing up in Tonga.
It was a “difficult journey” for Makoni to complete the advanced training to become a mental health nurse practitioner while working full-time over four years.
“I lost count of the number of times I gave up. It was a huge commitment to work, study, church, family and being a mother to my daughter.
“But now I feel empowered to know I can do anything. I hope my story will inspire more Pasefika people to go down this path.”
And after losing a family member to suicide several years ago, it’s rewarding to be able to give something back and help others.
“You work with someone in crisis and see them recover and get discharged. You see the successes.”
PSA members and local communities joined forces in February to protest restructuring that threatened hundreds of jobs and quality client care.
While the restructuring by HealthCare NZ is now set to go ahead the protests have thrown a spotlight on issues besetting the home care and support sector.
Union organisers from the Pacific have spoken about the challenges some face while trying to improve conditions for workers in their countries.