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Mental Health Illness Among The Maori

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The Maori refers to the indigenous people of New Zealand. However, increased contact with the European community has either misplaced or diffused the culture of these people due to increased urbanizations and social cultural interactions. The indigenous Maori people are conservative, polytheistic and lovers of art and drama which has also been compromised by use of television, film and theatre technology. The Maori people have been suffering from various acute conditions and mental illnesses. These have been influenced by various factors such as access to quality health care, social economic challenges and risk factors such as drug abuse and other dietary cultural factors. This paper explores mental health conditions among the Maori people and how the indigenous model guides action to address mental health issues among the Maori people.

Bradley, et al (2015) explains that with increased study on the factors influencing health, causes, signs and symptoms of disease and not withholding an inquiry into the various methods of disease transfer, preventive and curative mechanisms, mental health disorders have been observed in many Maori people as opposed to the other populations living in New Zealand. As stated earlier, high prevalence of these conditions can be blamed on the amount of wealth and the social status of the people, physical activity the people engage in and the general lifestyle they lead, how well they observe nutritional practices and the body sizes of these people.

Leckie and Hughes, (2017) have also proven that the mental health conditions have been mostly influenced by the culture and the political factors of the people. This serves to assert the fact that the conditions are mostly prevalent on the indigenous Maori people as opposed to other immigrant cultures. The traditional beliefs, behaviors, practices and attitudes of the Maori people and their political history of oppression especially with the onset of the Europeans, cultural competition and other factors have worsened the state of health of the Maori people.

Newton?Howes and  Boden, (2015) have however arguably reasoned that the economic weakness of the Maori people is the main cause of poor mental conditions. Poor economic abilities restrict the people to a poor diet even when they have enough information of the dietary requirements. Illiteracy is also a factor that can be attributed to economic incapability of being able to fully educate the community on sound health patterns such as lifestyle and drug use challenges. Poverty as suggests Gurung, (2013) has also made the government to be unable to cater effectively for the health needs of the people and this has mostly affected the Maori since they are deeply rooted in tradition and intuition beliefs.


The available information about mental illness and mental disorders in the Maori community state that there have been increased suicide rates among the Maori people and hospitalizations as the people have finally adopted western medication.  There are however still very shocking statistics which explain that 30% of all adult Maori people are at risk of getting a mental health challenge. Having several mental disorders have also become a common phenomenon identified among indigenous Maori people. These disorders commonly range from anxiety, moods and drug related mental health conditions (Shoemaker, et al 2015).

Cunningham (2015) explains how the traditional beliefs about mental health illnesses have varied among the Maori people. These beliefs have ranged from bizarre and mystical beliefs to biological and psychological views. As a matter of fact, among the pre-colonial populations, it was almost impossible to distinguish between the different types of conditions such as insanity and intellectual incapability. However, people generally realized that mental health illness was associated with the economic status of the people in the society.

Mental health illnesses do not readily express themselves in the face of the Maori people. Psychiatric expert is required in order to detect and be able to treat these conditions. The best approach thereof is to try and develop a therapeutic relationship between the patient and the clinical officer (Wurtzburg and Rocchio, 2014). The relationship enhances sound communication and helps the patient to give all the relevant information to the health care provider. A process known as verbal screening is also a very important intervention as it tries to figure out the period the illness has been a challenge, some of the interventions that the patient has employed and other predisposing factors such as abuse that may contribute to overall mental disorders in people.

Collier and Friedman, (2016) argues that in treatment of these disorders, it is necessary to recognize the cultural influences of the Maori people. People who did not traditionally recognize medicine as treatment may view medicine as an addition to other approaches and rather not as the primary treatment course. Solitary and individual counseling and therapeutic interventions may not work much for the Maori people since their culture do not focus on individuality but is rather concerned with the development of large relationships. Brunton and McGeorge, (2017) argues that Partnering with Kaupapa Maori service providers provides a better ground for health officers in order to be effective in their work.

The understanding of mental illnesses has influenced the cultural responses among contemporary Maori people (Ward, 2014, June). The prevalence rates are notably higher with people with a low social-economic status, youths and middle-aged adults and equally higher with ladies as opposed to men. This has influenced the people to categorize mental health disorders as cultural related and this has prevented many people from seeking medical advice. This has led people to seek for treatment from specialists and also perform various rituals in a bid to cleanse the people from the mental illnesses.

According to Saul and Simon, (2016) the government of New Zealand, having identified the challenge has come up with various resolutions of rooting out the mental health disorders among these people. Some of these interventions include the implementation and reorganization of various initiatives that respond to these mental conditions such as stress and depression. The government has also made plans to effectively deliver relevant cultural care that does not conflict with the beliefs of the people. This has been observed as very effective in the sense that it induces compliance among the very people and provides collaborative efforts which yield more.

The government has also developed effective partnerships between primary care providers and recognized mental health care providers in a bid to improve the services that are offered to the people and in turn improve the overall health of the people. An inquiry into the overall risk factors has also prompted the government to try to address these factors as opposed to the illnesses in order to prevent occurrence of more of these illnesses. Efforts to raise the social-economic status of the Maori people have also been one of the primary focuses of the government since it remains one of the major predisposing factors to these conditions (Gureje, et al 2015).

In conclusion, mental health can be said to be a threat that has not extensively been addressed among the Maori people. Alongside other acute infections and food disorders due to drug use and the lifestyle conditions, mental health still remains to be a major threat to people living in New Zealand especially those of the Maori descent. Relationships, cultural assessment, beliefs and customs however remains one of the most important virtues that the Maori uphold that to some extent can be said to have some little influence in their mental conditions.



Collier, S., & Friedman, S. H. (2016). Mental illness among women referred for psychiatric services in a New Zealand women's prison. Behavioral sciences & the law, 34(4), 539-550.

Newton?Howes, G., & Boden, J. M. (2015). Relation between age of first drinking and mental health and alcohol and drug disorders in adulthood: evidence from a 35?year cohort study. Addiction.

Bradley, P., Dunn, S., Lowell, A., & Nagel, T. (2015). Acute mental health service delivery to Indigenous women: What is known?. International journal of mental health nursing, 24(6), 471-477.

Gureje, O., Nortje, G., Makanjuola, V., Oladeji, B. D., Seedat, S., & Jenkins, R. (2015). The role of global traditional and complementary systems of medicine in the treatment of mental health disorders. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2(2), 168-177.

Shoemaker, E. Z., Tully, L. M., Niendam, T. A., & Peterson, B. S. (2015). The next big thing in child and adolescent psychiatry: interventions to prevent and intervene early in psychiatric illnesses. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 38(3), 475-494.

Ward, T. (2014, June). The theory and practice of critical pedagogy in bicultural community development. Part 1: Theory. Capitalism and community health: An indigenous perspective. In IV INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CRITICAL EDUCATION Critical Education in the Era of Crisis (p. 833).

Saul, J., & Simon, W. (2016). Building resilience in families, communities, and organizations: A training program in global mental health and psychosocial support. Family process, 55(4), 689-699.

Leckie, J., & Hughes, F. (2017). Mental Health in the Smaller Pacific States. In Mental Health in Asia and the Pacific (pp. 253-272). Springer US.

Brunton, W., & McGeorge, P. (2017). Grafting and Crafting New Zealand’s Mental Health Policy. In Mental Health in Asia and the Pacific (pp. 273-287). Springer US.

Gurung, R. A. (2013). Health psychology: A cultural approach. Cengage Learning.

Wurtzburg, S. J., & Rocchio, C. C. (2014). Mental Illness and Culture. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior, and Society.

Cunningham, C. (2015). Psychosocial factors in healthcare for Maori. Psychosocial Dimensions of Medicine, 208. 

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