The Christchurch Methodist Mission is a key provider in the Mana Ake - Stronger for Tomorrow initiative which will eventually provide 80 wellbeing workers in Canterbury and Kaikōura schools.
CMM's Community Response Team has been working in primary and intermediate schools to improve the mental and emotional well-being of children since 2012. It was first established after the Canterbury Earthquakes in response to schools identifying the critical need for pupils and their families to receive support. Two members of the team are now part of the first roll out of Mana Ake in Hornby and Linwood.
One of these is Jonathan Crosby who had been part of the Community Response Team since it was first established. Jonathan is a trained teacher and has a real passion for building relationships with children, parents and schools and providing a wide-range of support that is flexible to the needs of who he is working with. "I love being in schools and working to the needs of each school," says Jonathan. "Not coming in with a specific programme or a set scale for what we want to do but rather working with them to respond to the issues impacting their pupils and families."
Mana Ake was established in March to support the wellbeing of children in school years 1 to 8 by addressing mild to moderate mental health needs before they become more serious. It is part of the government's response to the mental health crisis in Canterbury which has seen a huge demand for support, far outstripping the capacity of the Canterbury District Health Board.
"Mana Ake focuses on wellbeing and a model of proactive work with schools," says Jonathan. "Myself and the other Mana Ake Kaimahi (wellbeing workers) are working with children and parents at the top of the cliff rather than being the ambulance at the bottom. Overtime this will alleviate the pressure on the services that deal with severe mental health needs."
The first rollout has involved 8 workers from 4 organisations that are split between the Hornby and Linwood clusters. Each school in the two clusters has been assigned a key liaison worker who then coordinates the requests for support with the other Mana Ake Kaimahi. "If I get a request for support I take that back to my Hornby cluster team and then we sit around the table and delegate who has the best skills for it," Jonathan says. "It's amazing to be in the position where you can sit around the table with really experienced professionals like social workers and counsellors to then delegate the best person for the request."
Anxiety is still having a significant impact on families in Canterbury. Often, anxiety is passed unintentionally from the parents onto their children. As a result there are a number of children still highly absent from schools, eight years after the first earthquake. "That has been a real pattern in the Hornby area," says Jonathan. 'And that is where Mana Ake can really help. We don't just work within the schools but also in home environments to support some of those parents that are still feeling anxious."
Mana Ake will progressively be rolled out until all primary schools across Canterbury and Kaikōura have access to it which is expected to be mid-2019.
Picture Caption: Jonathan Crosby is part of the first roll out of Mana Ake.