Gandhi Nivas’ holistic response to family harm, mental health, and alcohol and other drugs (AOD) crises means people are accepting specialist support when otherwise they might refuse it.
That’s according to a Massey University researcher, Hazel Buckingham, who has worked in family harm and is now part of a team studying Gandhi Nivas’ work.
She says the Gandhi Nivas team understands that issues of mental health, family violence and AOD are entangled and often underpinned by compounding and connected issues. The team can build relationships to enable the continuity of care and connect men and families with the services they need.
The family harm early intervention service helps to keep women and families safe and men get the early support they need to change their behaviour. Total Healthcare PHO has contributed money from its Flexible Funding Pool to Gandhi Nivas since the programme’s inception in 2014 because it recognised this innovative approach to family harm could have a significant impact.
Massey’s latest study into Gandhi Nivas work, released in February 2023, reviewed how Gandhi Nivas staff responded to men involved in family harm who were also experiencing mental distress. (Pictured above are attendees of the study's launch).
At the launch of the new study Hazel gave an example of how Gandhi Nivas’ immediate response to calls for help makes a difference.
“I remember a man who showed up unannounced at the whare one day (as many often do), he had been welcomed to stay at the whare almost two years earlier, and the team had tried to support him in getting help for his experiences with alcohol and drug addiction, but he was not ready to engage at the time.
“However, on this day, two years later, he had driven straight to the whare from work, because he had decided that today was the day, he was ready to engage with alcohol and other drugs support and give up his drug use.”
Hazel said staff immediately caught up with the man over a cuppa and kōrero to understand his needs and stayed with him to support him through assessment, detox and other processes of change.
Gandhi Nivas staff refer to its support not as a service but as a home where you are always welcome, she says.
Bridging gaps in care
Hazel says she undertook the research because she noticed family violence and mental health crises often co-occurred but support systems addressed them as individual issues.
The result is increased pressure on families to traverse two seemingly separate systems and experience gaps in the care they were offered.
But Gandhi Nivas offers men the opportunity to stay for free at its “homes of peace” in three locations across Auckland. Counsellors and social workers are available 24/7 to provide free counselling and social and cultural support to men and their families and connect them with other services.
“By listening to, being with and sitting with women and their families at home, as well as with the men who are staying in the Gandhi Nivas whare, the team begin with families by forming an understanding of the distressing conditions of daily lives and their specific immediate needs,” Hazel explains.
“Through addressing families’ immediate needs and being with them during the moments of intensity after a crisis, it becomes possible for a caring process to unfold. With time, trust and caring connections, Gandhi Nivas professionals sit with and be with families to discuss sensitive issues such as violence in the home and serious mental wellness concerns.”