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NZMTS: PMA to deploy mental health specialist team to Vanuatu

The Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) will deploy a mental health specialist team to the Vila Central Hospital, Vanuatu, as part of the New Zealand Medical Treatment Scheme (NZMTS), funded by the New Zealand Ministry Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

Team Leader, Dr Stephen Stathis, shares of the outcomes they wish to achieve as a result of this visit.

“We hope to see enhanced capacity building, in clinical leadership for nurses and doctors. We also hope to look at case reviews and clinics, with the intent of strengthening community health services.”

Dr Stathis is a Senior Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, as well as the Medical Director of the Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS) at the Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service in Queensland. He also acts as a Child and Youth Clinical Advisor to the Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Service, Queensland Health. He shares his connection to the team in Vanuatu.

“I usually work closely with the Vanuatu mental health team. This is part of the regular outreach visits that I and Dr Allister Bush offer to Dr [Jimmy] Obed and the mental health team.”

“I have now regularly visited Vanuatu for over 10 years. I used to visit twice a year to support mental health services (not just child and adolescent mental health), though due to COVID, have not been on outreach since February 2020.”

The PMA is pleased to support initiatives that focus on the capacity building of Pacific partners, and that address the challenges of mental health, which has been a long-standing priority for the organisation. Debbie Sorensen, Chief Executive Officer for PMA, affirms the importance of addressing mental health.

“Mental health in a Pacific context is something that we are eager to see strengthened and developed. PMA are supportive of all initiatives that seek to address mental health for Pacific communities, and are privileged to be able to carry this work out in partnership.”

We also acknowledge long-time friend and colleague of the PMA, Dr Jimmy Obed, who has worked tirelessly to address the mental health needs of Vanuatu communities, and we look forward to continuing our work together.”

Vanuatu’s mental health unit is led by PMA Member and the country’s sole psychiatrist, Dr Jimmy Obed, who relays the value of partnership initiatives such as the visit.

“Long term benefits is relationships, trust and gleaning from each other. We’ve had people come and go, but relationships built as Pasifika people and one that is built on trust goes a long way. From these relationships, we hope to strengthen support in capacity building, case discussions and resource sharing.”

“Mental Health work and understanding in Vanuatu is growing and it is important that we nurture this growth in the right way. We feel that we have a lot to learn from others in the Pacific and at the same time get the support we need from our Pasifika colleagues in the region to be able to better shape our mental health work and service delivery.”


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