Māori and Pacific mental health research on offer

A $2 million mental health research fund for Māori and Pacific youth in New Zealand is being supported by the world's biggest public research funding agency.

New Zealand has joined Global Alliance to provide a grant to find better strategies to support Maori and Pacific youth with mental health problems.

The Health Research Council's Kath McPherson said mental health outcomes continued to be inequitable in New Zealand.

She said the research was needed as a recent study in the New Zealand Medical Journal shows Pacific youth in this country are three times more likely to attempt suicide.

"Māori and Pacific young people in New Zealand have got higher rates of some mental health issues. Even stress and so on in adults is higher in Maori and Pacific populations. So in terms of what the HRC is wanting to do, we are just wanting to see, are there research gaps or knowledge gaps where investing some money in research can actually get better outcomes for people."

Massey University lecturer Sione Vaka said the strategies needed to be relatable to what Pacific youth are interested in.

"Consider technology. Some of the social media stuff that kids are into now. Some of those stuff can have negative outcomes, but I think what we can do is capitalise on those things that the children are quite connected with and inject some of those strategies into those area, so that we would be able to engage with youth and at the same time, deliver the message that we want to deliver them through those pathways."

Dr Vaka said that researchers would need to incorporate family, community and Pacific values when finding innovative ways to better help Pacific youth.

He has done research with HRC, shedding light on mental illness among Tongans in New Zealand.