Pictured: The 2019 Whaimua Ekiden Team
‘Spike Milligan’ (his chosen pseudonom for this article) was referred to the Whaimua programme for asthma presentations but it was connection, understanding and acceptance that Spike needed to support him in his journey to wellness.
Before the Te Arawa Whānau Ora Whaimua programme, complaints of Spike’s behaviour in the hospital and community were frequently received. With a diagnosis of schizophrenia Spike struggled to communicate his needs and admits he didn’t even know what he needed. “I struggled with my mental health and even the problems with my whānau - I’d just go to the hospital or my doctor all the time. Sit there for hours because I just don’t want to go home, but then I end up being not nice to people and security would come. I’d just get so angry”.
The Whaimua programme is about working on the things that matter most to whānau so that it may have a positive effect on their overall wellbeing. But sometimes whānau need support to identify what that is. Our Whaimua Paeārahi Mariana Vercoe and John Rapana both set out to connect with Spike.
Mariana recalls, “When I first met Spike he was having an asthma education session with Noelene and we were both stand offish. Spike was different, he was guarded, and I was a new Paeārahi”.
Mariana connected with Spike over their interests in Māoritanga, whānau and initiatives such as the walking group that Mariana started.
John adds, “We needed to listen to what was not being said. Then we can have some understanding,” although John quickly adds, “Spike also needed some clear boundaries and guidance.” Spike jokes, “Yeah I thought ow what an asshole,” he laughs. “But I grew to know you’s all (John, Mariana, Roel and Noelene) and they became my G’s, - they all did in the programme, so I listened to them, they listened to me."
While Spikes behaviour was the main presenting issue for others, what was going on in the inside for Spike was of more importance.
Spike explains, “I still have problems with myself, my mental health and with my whānau but I try to take the good from the bad, try to be positive. I don’t usually like doing things but being part of this programme gives me motivation and the confidence to do stuff. I lost 10kg’s when I trained for the Ekiden and it all started with the walking group.” But they are my gang, I tell my whānau they are my ‘G’s’. They just accept me for who I am. Even when I’m not well and I’m at Tōku Oranga off on my own planet, I feel… 'safe’ and that’s the thing: sometimes I don’t know when I’m really unwell but they do.”
“I haven’t been back to the hospital and I don’t annoy everyone,” he jokes. “I just like being part of this gang, I just hope we can do another Ekiden.”