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Stigma and discrimination against people with mental distress or illness is still very much a problem and people’s negative views of those with a mental illness often come from a lack of understanding. People with a mental health problem often avoid seeking help or treatment because of this stigma and concerns about being treated differently.

Taranaki consumer advocate, Nicola Clarke, is passionate about addressing these issues and making a stand against mental illness discrimination.

To help her better support her community and expand her knowledge, Nicola enrolled in a Mental Health and Addictions apprenticeship through Industry Training Organisation Careerforce. The apprenticeship is a work-based learning programme, endorsed by Nicola’s employer – community-based health and social services provider, Tui Ora.  Tui Ora is a kaupapa Māori organisation built on the aspirations of all Taranaki iwi and established in 1998.  The organisation is firmly part of the landscape working to support the health and wellbeing of all Taranaki communities.

In her role as a consumer advocate, Nicola walks alongside whānau to help them reach their potential and empower them to achieve their goals.

Nicola and her colleague Natalie, who both have lived experience of mental illness, had an initial vision to raise awareness about the impacts of mental illness discrimination.  Their vision has now been brought to life with the launch of a bi-cultural pūrākau, and the creation of a beautiful short video, which are now being distributed throughout communities.  It was through being Te Kete Pounamu’s, the national organisation for Māori with lived experience, regional lead for Te-Whanganui-a-Tara that Nicola saw the opportunity to produce the pūrākau Tomo Mai.

Nicola Clarke presents pūrākau at launch event

The bi-cultural resource reminds people that stigma and discrimination do exist, and that as a result, people with mental illness are often misunderstood.  They may not be able to go back to work and are often discriminated against.

“The public awareness programme, Nōku te Ao: Like Minds generously provided the funding for the project,” says Nicola.

Nōku te Ao: Like Minds aims to end mental illness discrimination through public awareness campaigns, community projects and research.”

Nicola and Natalie developed the story themselves, engaging graphic designers and animators, TGM Design Ltd, to help bring the story of Moko’s mental health journey to life. They selected the music

‘Ka Piata’ which talks to letting your wairua shine through, no matter how many difficult times may be ahead.  It provided them with the inspiration to bring the pūrākau to fruition.

The video launched in July 2021. Nicola adds, “A wide range of whānau attended the launch.  Colleagues from Te Kete Pounamu (the national Māori lived experience network) came along, as well as Te Rau Ora CE and kaimahi (the umbrella organisation for Te Kete Pounamu kaimahi).

“We also had fellow kaimahi and kaiarahi from different Tui Ora services – like Whānau Ora, Public Health, Suicide Prevention and colleagues from the TDHB – Consumer & Whānau Advisors.”

Nicola has just three modules to go to finish her Level 4 apprenticeship in Mental Health and Addiction Support. She is quick to acknowledge the support she has received from her Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor, Tracy Collier.

“Tracy has been really helpful and encouraging – just amazing and very patient,” says Nicola.

“With the challenges of completing my apprenticeship, studying te reo and working, it has taken time, but I want to give it a bit of a final push now to get it over the line.

“The apprenticeship has really made me think about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it in my daily work – it’s very reflective.

“There is still lots to learn about mental health – I want to keep learning.

“I’ll continue with my te reo studies – it is important to me.  I will keep focusing on mental health, especially with a focus on Māori mental health, I want to be able to give back to my people and help the whānau out there who are struggling.”

*As a result of the Government’s Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF), enrolments in Careerforce apprenticeship programmes are currently free. In addition, employers of apprentices may be eligible for $1000/mth payments through the Apprenticeship Boost fund.


More information:

Purakau resource: Tomo Mai – Mental Health Bilingual Story – YouTube

Apprenticeship in Mental Health and Addiction Support: