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Session on Muslim culture for mental health professionals

Friday 5 July 2019 10:30am

Health professionals attend a recent session on Muslim faith and how to better support patients at the Christchurch campus.

Dame Sue Bagshaw.

The University of Otago, Christchurch recently played host to more than 200 mental health professionals keen to learn about the Muslim faith and how to better support patients.

The training session was a joint initiative of the University’s Christchurch health campus, the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists, the New Zealand Psychological Society and the Canterbury Charity Hospital.

In addition to opening themselves up to new perspectives and knowledge, participants at the event donated more than $3,000 that will be given in the form of supermarket vouchers to those in need in the Canterbury Muslim community.

University of Otago, Christchurch senior lecturer Dame Sue Bagshaw was one of the organisers. She said after the 15 March attacks, clinicians in Canterbury and around New Zealand were working with more clients of Muslim faith. There was a groundswell of support from psychologists, counsellors and social workers for information and education so they could provide the best care possible to their clients.

"Ensuring there are no cultural blocks between health professionals and their patients is crucial."

"Ensuring there are no cultural blocks between health professionals and their patients is crucial," Dame Bagshaw said.

One of the learnings from the day was that people who practice the Muslim faith also come from a wide range of ethnicities and cultures, she said.

The session’s presenters were clinical psychologists Dr Shaystah Dean and Zeenah Adam. The pair are part of the Muslim Psychologists Collective that was set up in March this year. The group has been actively working with Government, professionals and the community in many centres across New Zealand to share their knowledge and expertise.

Canterbury-based psychologist Fran Vertue was one of the event’s organisers. She said collectively the event’s participants will made a difference to clients and patients of Muslim faith in Canterbury, and probably further afield.

She said she was humbled by the response to the event. So many mental health professionals wanted to attend but numbers had to be limited to 240 to fit into the University’s Rolleston Lecture Theatre.

Dr Vertue said the organisations involved in the recent training hoped to do more soon.

"This is the beginning of some larger work in the area of cultural training, and part of the groundswell of hope in New Zealand that allows us to face our ignorance and biases (many of those outside of conscious awareness) and do something to change that so that we can all live in harmony."