Dared to dream

Tokomaru Bay mental health worker Claudena Maaka has a dream to prevent suicide in coastal communities. She tells Mark Peters how she plans to do that, and how a people’s choice vote by text could help her get closer to achieving it.

Tokomaru Bay mental health worker Claudena Maaka has a dream to prevent suicide in coastal communities. She tells Mark Peters how she plans to do that, and how a people’s choice vote by text could help her get closer to achieving it.

A PASSION TO HELP: Mental health support, suicide prevention and the Coast lifestyle are all part of Claudena Maaka’s day.

STORIES her grandmother told about people she encountered as a mental health worker inspired Tokomaru Bay woman Claudena Maaka to follow the same career path.

For the past 14 years, Claudena has worked for the same organisation as her grandmother. She began her vocation as a support worker with Ngati Porou Hauora and is now a clinical youth worker with the same organisation in Te Puia Springs. Claudena’s role is primarily to support young people who suffer from mental health and addiction-related issues in isolated communities from Anaura Bay to Potaka.

Driven by a passion for suicide prevention, Claudena plans to put her recent AMP scholarship award of $5000 towards technology tools she will need next year to complete her Masters degree on rural suicide prevention in East Coast communities. This will entail whanau intervention strategies and support.

Her research will focus on identifying obstacles to people seeking help from services for at-risk family members or friends. Because her research will involve talking to families and individuals, she needs equipment such as a laptop, hard-drive and dictaphone for recording and research storage.

“I want to capture everyone’s input and store it safely,” she said.

“I just didn’t realise how expensive research is.”

A people’s choice vote by text could earn Claudena another $5000, all of which will go towards fulfilling her dream.

“I have an area I want to target but also to stay open to people who might want to approach me.

“The main theme of my research is ‘what can be done to encourage people to come forward for help sooner?’ That's the broad idea. Our communities like to keep things simple and at face value. It’s about talking their language.”

Claudena’s research will also be around what support is working or not working.

People’s reluctance to ask for help is often to do with shame, depression, incomprehension, coping mechanisms, drugs and alcohol.

“But I won’t know for sure until I’ve done the research.”

The research is not so much individual, but whanau and community-orientated, with a focus on the East Coast experience, she said.

Ihungia Station

Claudena grew up on Ihungia Station near Te Puia Springs.

“It was very isolated out there but I developed a love for fishing, eeling and farming,” she said.

In 1995, the family moved to Tokomaru Bay and Claudena has lived there since.

Her family is close. They talk about everything. After her sister’s suicide two years ago, Claudena talked with her siblings.

“I talked with them to say it’s OK to feel angry, confused or even guilty.”

Family members are the first people you should talk to, she said.

When Claudena was a 15-year-old student at Ngata College, her grandmother started work with Ngati Porou Hauora.

“She talked about her work and about people who lived with mental illness, people who were stigmatised or ostracised.”

Her grandmother’s passion to help people was an inspiration. Having joined Ngati Porou Hauora herself as a youth support worker in 2004, Claudena wanted to upskill and later trained in addiction counselling in Wellington.

“Classes were split so sometimes I would fly down for class on a Monday then fly home for counselling in school and then fly or bus back down. I felt like a yo-yo, but it was worth it.”

In the past three years she has switched to a clinical specialist role in child and adolescent mental health.

She now wants to get deeper into suicide prevention, so she will complete her Masters degree next year.

Her AMP Dare to Dream scholarship award, and the chance of getting enough votes for the nationwide people’s choice award, has helped her focus more on her research goals.

“Because my research is broad, all this discussion has helped me develop a clear pathway for my thesis topic.

“I want to know what the obstacles are that stop people asking for help sooner. I want to find out what supports are needed for whanau affected by suicide, and to see the dream come true of no more suicides.

“So a huge thank you to everyone who is voting for me. It has gone viral.”

She also thanks her husband Remis: “My rock, always.”

The Gisborne and East Coast community (and beyond) can help support Mrs Maaka’s vision by texting AMP004 to 8126.

Voting is limited to one vote per person.

The people’s choice vote ends on October 22. The recipient will be announced at an awards event in Auckland on October 26.

STORIES her grandmother told about people she encountered as a mental health worker inspired Tokomaru Bay woman Claudena Maaka to follow the same career path.

For the past 14 years, Claudena has worked for the same organisation as her grandmother. She began her vocation as a support worker with Ngati Porou Hauora and is now a clinical youth worker with the same organisation in Te Puia Springs. Claudena’s role is primarily to support young people who suffer from mental health and addiction-related issues in isolated communities from Anaura Bay to Potaka.

Driven by a passion for suicide prevention, Claudena plans to put her recent AMP scholarship award of $5000 towards technology tools she will need next year to complete her Masters degree on rural suicide prevention in East Coast communities. This will entail whanau intervention strategies and support.

Her research will focus on identifying obstacles to people seeking help from services for at-risk family members or friends. Because her research will involve talking to families and individuals, she needs equipment such as a laptop, hard-drive and dictaphone for recording and research storage.

“I want to capture everyone’s input and store it safely,” she said.

“I just didn’t realise how expensive research is.”

A people’s choice vote by text could earn Claudena another $5000, all of which will go towards fulfilling her dream.

“I have an area I want to target but also to stay open to people who might want to approach me.

“The main theme of my research is ‘what can be done to encourage people to come forward for help sooner?’ That's the broad idea. Our communities like to keep things simple and at face value. It’s about talking their language.”

Claudena’s research will also be around what support is working or not working.

People’s reluctance to ask for help is often to do with shame, depression, incomprehension, coping mechanisms, drugs and alcohol.

“But I won’t know for sure until I’ve done the research.”

The research is not so much individual, but whanau and community-orientated, with a focus on the East Coast experience, she said.

Ihungia Station

Claudena grew up on Ihungia Station near Te Puia Springs.

“It was very isolated out there but I developed a love for fishing, eeling and farming,” she said.

In 1995, the family moved to Tokomaru Bay and Claudena has lived there since.

Her family is close. They talk about everything. After her sister’s suicide two years ago, Claudena talked with her siblings.

“I talked with them to say it’s OK to feel angry, confused or even guilty.”

Family members are the first people you should talk to, she said.

When Claudena was a 15-year-old student at Ngata College, her grandmother started work with Ngati Porou Hauora.

“She talked about her work and about people who lived with mental illness, people who were stigmatised or ostracised.”

Her grandmother’s passion to help people was an inspiration. Having joined Ngati Porou Hauora herself as a youth support worker in 2004, Claudena wanted to upskill and later trained in addiction counselling in Wellington.

“Classes were split so sometimes I would fly down for class on a Monday then fly home for counselling in school and then fly or bus back down. I felt like a yo-yo, but it was worth it.”

In the past three years she has switched to a clinical specialist role in child and adolescent mental health.

She now wants to get deeper into suicide prevention, so she will complete her Masters degree next year.

Her AMP Dare to Dream scholarship award, and the chance of getting enough votes for the nationwide people’s choice award, has helped her focus more on her research goals.

“Because my research is broad, all this discussion has helped me develop a clear pathway for my thesis topic.

“I want to know what the obstacles are that stop people asking for help sooner. I want to find out what supports are needed for whanau affected by suicide, and to see the dream come true of no more suicides.

“So a huge thank you to everyone who is voting for me. It has gone viral.”

She also thanks her husband Remis: “My rock, always.”

The Gisborne and East Coast community (and beyond) can help support Mrs Maaka’s vision by texting AMP004 to 8126.

Voting is limited to one vote per person.

The people’s choice vote ends on October 22. The recipient will be announced at an awards event in Auckland on October 26.

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Linda - 2 months ago
What a SUPERSTAR Claudena Maaka, so much love for your wider community. You have my vote.

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