Puna Poipoi, a secure forensic mental health unit in Waikato DHB’s Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre, went all out for Pink Shirt Day today, with a pink-themed bake stall and pink t-shirts that were tie-dyed by the unit’s service users.
Pink Shirt Day NZ on 26 May is an annual event that asks New Zealanders to stand together against bullying. It aims to create schools, workplaces and communities where all people feel safe, valued and respected. https://www.pinkshirtday.org.nz/
Puna Poipoi charge nurse manager Nicki Barlow says the aim of Pink Shirt Day fits really well with the agreed values of the unit, and also with the new Waikato DHB values.
The one-year programme has four terms and 90 minute learning sessions every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that focus on an aspect of healthy lifestyles – nutrition and wellbeing one day, social wellness the next, and life skills on the third day.
Another key component is experiential learning, where activities involving physical or emotional challenges improve how service users see themselves, their self-esteem, their ability to seek help and to help other people, to trust and to act in a social way.
“We do an adventure challenge at the end of each term. An example is a walk we organised. The group had to learn to plan together and to look at any risk – things like needing protection from sun, suitable footwear, and so on. They also learned how to support the group members who were slower or not so able. It was a real challenge for them, but the achievement means a lot because of that.
“At the start of each year all the staff and service users involved in the programme develop a set of agreed values which will underpin everything we do,” Nicki explains. “They apply to the staff as well as service users in the unit.”
These values become critical to the programme’s success as inevitably challenges and conflict arise.
“The agreed values are something we can come back to, remind ourselves of what is really important, reconfirm those values in the group and use them to solve issues.”
As these values get reinforced through actions during the year, the aim is to grow self-responsibility, personal growth, development of empathy, healthier living and social skills that service users can use while they are in Puna Poipoi and also when they are ready to move on to an open unit and eventually into the community.
Puna Poipoi is now in its third year using the group programme. Occupational therapist (OT) Ashlee Dyer, who coordinates the programme in partnership with OT Nisha Gindha and activities facilitator Ben Reweti, describes it as taking a holistic approach to forensic rehabilitation by considering physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health both in the content taught and the way that it is delivered.
“It gives service users a safe place to gain and practice new skills.”
For Pink Shirt Day, those skills included baking cupcakes and learning how to tie-dye, for the great aims of supporting a stance against bullying and raising money for the Mental Health Foundation.