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Wintec responds to the growing need for more mental health and addiction practitioners

Wintec is responding to the demand for mental health and addictions support roles with a new postgraduate qualification a first for New Zealand

Wintec is responding to the demand for culturally responsive mental health and addictions support roles with a new postgraduate qualification that is a first in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This year, 2020 may be remembered most for COVID-19, lockdowns, rising unemployment and the side effects of that, a significant increase in the numbers of New Zealanders living with mental illness and addiction.

One in five New Zealanders are reported to be living with mental illness and/or addiction* and Wintec is responding to this by developing training that will mean more people can qualify to work in a range of support roles for in-demand areas.

A new strand in the Postgraduate Diploma in Health and Social Practice will make it possible for people with non-applied degrees to study towards careers in mental health and addiction without already being in the industry.

Wintec Director, Centre for Health and Social Practice, Dr Sharon Brownie says this is a first in New Zealand and an opportunity for people to build on their existing education and develop practice skills to support people living with mental health challenges and living with addiction. 

“We’ve looked at the other postgraduate courses that exist which require people to be working in these fields and we’ve developed a qualification that responds to people with base degrees in a broad range of specialties including psychology, science or even teaching  who want to move into people-facing roles to support those with mental health and addiction towards wellness.”

It’s a growing industry. Currently there are more than 100 roles advertised in New Zealand that mention mental health and addiction alone, including roles for clinicians, case workers, counsellors, consultants, managers and directors in this speciality field.

Dr Brownie adds the bicultural focus of the course is in response to the need for greater health, equity and culturally safe delivery for Māori and Pasifika communities, and is an ongoing priority for Wintec.

“Across the health sector an understanding of the importance of respecting culture, tikanga, language and lifestyle can impact positive outcomes. Cultural responsiveness is essential for mental health and addiction support workers at all levels, and to address health inequities including those in rural and remote communities.”

Two Wintec academics, Cassandra Cook and Andre McLachlan who will teach the course, worked with mental health and  addiction partners at  Te Pou te Whakaaro Nui , Matuaraki and the Salvation Army to develop the new bicultural postgraduate strand.

Cook says the delivery of the course has considered location, work and whānau commitments.

“We’re delivering this course in a blended way that makes it more accessible for more people,” she says.

“Our students will be learning online, attending block courses on some weekends at Te Kōpū Mānia o Kirikiriroa Marae on the Wintec Hamilton city campus and they will learn through work placements to get real-world experience.”

Cook, an addiction practitioner has been a strong advocate for bringing the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts to the Waikato. In December 2019, the Government agreed to set up a court in Hamilton to help break the cycle of addiction driving people’s offending.

“We are adding to the mental health and addiction industry through education and the drug court planned for Hamilton will be another source of employment for our graduates. There are many avenues this course will lead people, but ultimately they will be putting their education to good use to support people where they need it most in our communities.”

This year, the Mental Health Commissioner Kevin Allan released The Monitoring and Advocacy Report of the Mental Health Commissioner 2020  to “show what is possible when you shift from a mainly service-based response to mental distress and addiction to a whole-of community response focussed on wellbeing and recovery”.

The report stresses the need for much more to be done and more support for Māori and people with complex and ongoing needs, harm from substance abuse and care for women and their babies, signalling the need for more people to work in this area.

Application is now open for the one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Health and Social Practice with endorsements in Mental Health and Addiction, Midwifery and Professional Supervision. 

The Postgraduate Diploma in Health and Social Practice Mental Health and Addiction endorsement is currently under the Drug and Alcohol Practitioners’ Association Aotearoa–New Zealand (DAPAANZ) accreditation procedures and once approved, will meet the educational requirements for DAPAANZ registration.

*The Monitoring and Advocacy Report of the Mental Health Commissioner 2020.

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