Tackling mental health with a coffee and a chat


05 November 2019


“A positive step moving forward”; “A remarkable opportunity to be heard”; “I felt like people were listening to us” - these were some of the comments after Whanganui’s first Conversation Café.


The Café is an opportunity for people to talk about mental health and addiction issues in a relaxed and largely informal atmosphere.


And many of those doing the talking had lived through mental health challenges, either personally or with their families.


The Conversation Café is a collaborative effort led by Whanganui District Health Board’s Mental Health & Addiction Service.


The inaugural event was held last month at Balance Whanganui and was supported by Balance, Te Oranganui Trust and Mental Health & Wellbeing Support, with the aim being “to hear the voices of the community and people with lived experience of mental health and addiction services and their whānau”.


Creating a café-like environment, the evening started with refreshments and a warm welcome, and involved participants rotating between five tables. Each table had a host to facilitate the conversation around five specific questions (one per table).


“We were seeking ideas and insights around mental health services – we wanted those with lived experience and their whanau, to come and have a coffee and a chat about what they had been through, and share feedback of their experiences using the services and ideas for improvement” said Kathy Haskell, Improvement & Change Manager at the DHB’s Mental Health & Addiction Service.


“The event proved hugely beneficial as the 23 guests provided valuable opinions and information to help us improve our work.


“And they were enthusiastic and eager to continue to be part of the monthly Conversation Café.”  


This integrated community approach to mental health and addictions service improvements includes the five national priority areas designated by the Health Quality Safety Commission:


  1. Zero Seclusion: Towards eliminating seclusion by 2020 (minimising restrictive care).
  2. Connecting Care: Improving service transitions.
  3. Learning from serious adverse events and consumer experience.
  4. Maximising physical health.
  5. Improving medication management and prescribing.


The next Conversation Café is scheduled for November 21.