“E ina au na Manuela Temu no Manihiki.
“E mokopuna au na Niroa e Matapo Manuela o te tauranga o te manureva ko Nikao, Rarotonga.
“E metua tane noku ko Ngakimiora Manuela.”
Dr Sam Manuela, a psychology lecturer at the University of Auckland, has been awarded a $250,000 grant to study Tē 'ākirāta mārama, a comprehensive survey of Cook Islands mental health.
Manuela, 34, is born in Auckland but from Rarotonga, Manihiki and Atiu descent.
A day ago, he was finally able to share his good news: “a fantastic opportunity for the Cook Islands,” working with Cook Islands clinical psychologist Dr Evangelene Daniela-Wong and University of Otago statistics expert Dr Jesse Kokaua.
Last night he said he expected they would need a lot of people working with them in Cook Islands, to help manage the project and assist in collecting data.
The three-year project came out of discussions they had last year at the Cook Islands Health Conference, revealing the dearth of information on the mental health of Cook Islanders.
The only information was when people sought medical help – but the stigma around mental illness meant many people never asked for help.
“Having mental health issues doesn’t mean you’re sick or that there is anything wrong with you, which is part of the reason why many may not access health services.”
He hoped this research would help shape the healthcare that can be provided here. “We will see a lot of benefits for Cook Islands as a result of this project. Mental health can be difficult for people to talk about and share their experiences,” he said.
“The key to success for this project is to get as many people to take part. The more people that contribute, the more accurate the data will be.”
Usually he visits about this time, for the annual health conference, and stays with his family in Nikao – and connecting with his family every year is meaningful.
“Every time I come back I learn more about who I am and my history,” he said. “I didn't grow up in Raro and work commitments mean it can be difficult to travel, so each trip back is special. Fortunately with this project I can bring my work to Cook Islands.”
Dr Evangelene Daniela-Wong welcomed the news yesterday. “He deserves it totally, he has great track record,” she said.
“It's about collaborating with the universities and researchers to be able to monitor and ensure we can provide innovative world class response.”