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Fostering Hope: The Innovative Community Driven Screening Resource

The Art of a Great Referral

In moments of deep despair, when someone shares their pain and vulnerability, there's an opportunity for us to make a profound difference. The art of a great referral can be a lifeline, a source of hope, and a path towards healing. Let's explore how a simple act of connection can save lives.

Suicide prevention is a multifaceted challenge that demands a strategic and comprehensive approach. In 2018 and 2019 we connected with the community in suicide prevention conversations and then we co-produced and released the Growing Collective Wellbeing Regional Suicide Prevention Strategy in 2020. Since then we have been back boning collective action to achieve the strategic goals. Of which the “Art of a Great Referral” emphasising the importance of co-designing a common narrative and referral pathway is one of those initiatives. If we can support whānau to get the right type of support earlier with mental distress we can avoid crisis.

During these years we connected with communities living in urban and rural settings, collecting 5,000 comments as points of data through various engagement methods as part of the our whole of community, whole of systems approach to the prevention of suicide. Within Healthy Families Whanganui, Ruapehu, Rangitikei, we nurture an innovative mindset, believing in the expertise of individuals to find their solutions. Our collaborative efforts with community champions and experts led to a transformation, shifting our focus from suicide prevention to exploring how to enhance and grow the wellbeing of individuals and the community as a whole.

In the field of mental health support, a multitude of referral pathways and templates exists, yet there's a glaring absence of a unified entry point into the support system. Historically, the referral process has been primarily geared towards a clinical perspective, initially designed for the 3-4% of individuals seeking professional mental health services. However, in today's world, we've witnessed a significant increase in people grappling with diminished well-being and complex challenges. The starting point for accessing professional support has not evolved to cope with this growing demand. It is evident that a common referral process and shared narrative are essential to craft a more compassionate and effective response, not only for the individuals themselves but also for their support networks. Notably, those with lived experience of suicidal attempts often found comfort and guidance during crisis, yet they remained isolated and disconnected as they navigated the turbulent waters between at-risk behaviours and suicidal thoughts.

Shifting our focus to more recent developments, we are excited to introduce an inspiring collaboration that took place recently as Health Improvement Practitioners (HIP) and Health Coaches (HC) from around the rohe (region) came together at Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitīkei, Ruapehu. As part of the HIP and HC hui (meeting), we presented a prototype initially designed by Te Oranganui, Balance and Jigsaw to support kaimahi (staff) when working with whānau (family) who are experiencing distress.

This prototype innovation sits within the Growing Collective Wellbeing Regional Suicide Prevention Strategy, again a transformative initiative shaped by the voices of 5000 individuals.

A few of the HIP’s expressed their excitement, saying,

"I think the thing that I really like about it at first glance, is that it sits pretty much with the way I feel like I work anyway. What's great about that is that I can say I'm working from a space that has been peer-led and is Aotearoa-based, rather than coming from America. So I can say I'm doing the mahi that's based on our people rather than from somewhere else. This actually makes me feel really good, because I have always kind of gone, 'I'm doing this, it feels like it's good,' but you know, so this is actually really good.” - Kathy Murphy, HIP

“The Art of a Great Referral provides a brief but thorough intervention that draws on people’s own strength and experience to help get them through hard times. As a practitioner, I find it brings the conversation directly to solutions and supports. Patients respond well, and can quickly identify strategies and plans that are workable, resourced and pragmatic without lengthy assessments, screening tools and other paraphernalia we associate with mental health interventions. Whanau (family) can easily be part of the conversation and make valuable contributions. Anyone interested in supporting people with mental health concerns would find this a valuable tool in their kete.” - Margot London, HIP

The next exciting step in this journey is that these HIP and Health Coaches will put the screening resource to the test in practical applications during the month of November and then share their reflections. This feedback loop will allow us to refine the prototype, making it even more effective and valuable.

The prototype is a resource that will be able to be used by the community, opening the door for wider implementation and impact.

We are immensely grateful for the dedication and passion of our HIP and Health Coaches, and we are excited to see how this innovative screening resource can make a real difference in the lives of whānau (family). Together, we are taking meaningful steps towards a brighter and more supportive future for our community. Stay tuned for more updates on this incredible journey.


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