Yanchep mental health nurse receives SANE Hocking Fellowship for research trip

Tandi Kuwana. Picture: Verge Studio Photography
Tandi Kuwana. Picture: Verge Studio Photography

YANCHEP resident Tandi Kuwana has received a 2018 Hocking Fellowship to investigate the mental health benefits of the Friendship Bench initiative.

Mental health charity SANE Australia provides grants of up to $20,000 to help Australians travel throughout the world in search of ideas, innovation and excellence.

Ms Kuwana’s project aims to identify global best practice in engaging communities from migrant and diverse cultural backgrounds in a dialogue about mental health and to challenge mental health stigma.

Her commitment to increasing mental health literacy among migrants and culturally diverse communities will take her back to the country where she was born, Zimbabwe, to learn about the Friendship Bench initiative.

The Mental Wellness Keys founder runs activities to increase awareness of mental health in people from countries without established mental health systems.

Ms Kuwana, who presented at the 2017 G200 Youth Summit in Dubai, was delighted to receive the Hocking Fellowship grant.

“This award is such a huge opportunity for me to learn new and innovative ways of reducing the stigma of mental illness in migrants and new and emerging communities,” she said.

“I chose the Friendship Bench initiative because it is operating in a country with limited mainstream services but has already been scaled up in New York and other parts of Africa.

“People seeking assistance can talk anonymously with trained community workers who provide support and refer them to resources where they can get help.”

The project trains and employs elders to sit on a bench and listen to the concerns, issues and stressors experienced by people in their community.

The elder then refers the person onto an appropriate mental health clinician or service.

Using the Friendship Bench model, Ms Kuwana wants to increase mental health literacy within Australian migrant communities and improve access to mainstream health services.

The mental health nurse said sharing stories of mental health was one way of breaking down the stigma that existed.