Talking Together: beyond mental health – Anna Jane Jackman

I recently had a talk with Andrew Swanson-Dobbs who is the General Manager at Pinnacle Midlands Health, which is a primary healthcare organisation working through Hamilton, New Plymouth, Gisborne and Taupō.

Hi Andrew, thank you for taking the time to meet me. I work as a writer/contributor for Mad in Aoeteroa; which is a space for those to share their stories, and wisdom of living in of extreme states of being. I am part of the mad movement; and like others want to advocate and support those who experience the world in a way which makes sense to them. I know that I and others want people to come forward and share their wisdom, voices and experience in their own community. We see value in a holistic method of care. In particular Te whare Tapa Wha. Could you please tell me bit about yourself and your role as General Manager for Pinnacle Health?

Well, I am 46 years old, Pākehā, born in Masterson. In the 1980s-1990s I trained as a psychologist, and was the first employee and then -co-coordinator of the CAMHS service for young people and adolescents; as I felt we needed a youth mental health unit that is not “adult centric”, and had a real focus on both child and adolescenct wellbeing. We built a great team in Rotorua; I was team leader for about 10 years. I worked as the CEO of Nelson Bays Primary Health, which is a Primary Health Organisation (PHO), which is at the top of the south Nelson. A PHO is a relationship that we have within the health sector. I also am proud to say I was “Captain Condom” during my younger days when I was training as a psychologist and volunteering at Family Planning Association, a role I took very seriously and am proud of.

Ha, love it! Sexual health is important. Are you aware of Te Pou’s Equally Well initiative that aims to improve phsyical outcomes for people living with mental health/lived experience? Furthermore, do you think getting organisations to become more involved and working together to facilitate change is a great step?

I am aware of this, and I think it’s a great idea! In Tarāwhiti we are in the process of working with those in secondary care to address poor health outcomes for some in secondary care. We are working with both the community mental health (secondary care unit), and GP’s to get care plans in place to focus on physical health concerns and ensure people are enrolled with general practice. As a result of a paper that I and others have worked on, Closing the Loop was born. Our aim was to “articulate a future vision of primary care-based mental health services that draw(s) together the skills and resources of all the relevant agencies to transform a reactive, transactional system of treatment to a holistic, person-centred, responsive system of care and support(...)”. Closing the Loop was produced by Network 4, a collaboration of New Zealand’s four largest PHOs; Compass Health, Midland Health Network, Pegasus Health and ProCare Health, together covering a population of more than two million people (see

This was launched at the TheMHS Conference last year where we heard various mental health NGO feed-back; and what the evidence clearly told us, was that those with mild and moderate health condition,s living with mental health issues, had limited accessibility due to the “ping-pong” way in which we try to help these people. An example is when you call up a mental health service and get referred on, and on, and on; often nothing is done. The evidence shows us how dis-joined the current system is. Which does not benefit both the only the health sector, or the client. We want to change this.

How would you best describe what long term care means for the everyday person?

Long term care needs to be care that supports both the mental health and physical health of an individual. I think we are someway off understanding how that works successfully

Fantastic! That is really great to hear things are heading in the right direction. Sounds like we all need to work together. Do you know much about the “Mad Pride” movement?

I do! Someone who I highly recommend you look up is Arana Pearson, who is a mental health consumer. He is now an educator, and someone who has plenty of wisdom and guidance and lived experience of his own.

I looked Arana up between first talking with Andrew and us agreeing on the write up of this post. These are some things I found out from the internet about Arana:

Arana Pearson runs an organisation that specialises in delivering experiential learning and recovery-based training to the mental health sector. He is an educator, musician and writer who became involved in the mental health service sector some years after his own experience of using mental health services in New Zealand. He was the first chairperson for the New Zealand National Consumer Advisory Group’s project to the counter stigma and discrimination associated with mental distress “Like Minds, Like Mine”.
Arana is the director of Mad Pride™ concerts throughout Australasia. In 2005 he was an invited performer at the Yale University International Conference on Mental Health in the United States of America. As a voice hearer himself, Arana has advocated for better understanding, acceptance and support for people who hear voices in Australia and New Zealand over the past 14 years.
Arana represented the NZ Hearing Voices National Network at the First World Congress on Voice Hearing in Maastricht, Netherlands in 2009.

Awesome, it is great to have people like Arana doing such a vital job as part of our community. Do you have any final thoughts?

At the moment we have a system that has multi-points of no-entry and we want to address that. We need a single point of entry that works for all, into a system that is holistic, and at its core driven by its people.

I have to agree! Thank you very much for your time, and best of luck with all the exciting projects ahead. All the best!

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