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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Case study:

Te Wairua (Odyssey New Zealand)

Te Wairua (Odyssey New Zealand)

Odyssey New Zealand runs residential and community services that offer supportive peer environments for adults, young people and extended families to build on their existing strengths and learn new skills that enable long‑term recovery from drug, alcohol and other addiction challenges.

Odyssey operates Te Wairua, a residential service for adults seeking support with mental health and addiction issues. There are three Te Wairua services, two in Auckland and one in Whangarei, and each offers a hopeful, compassionate environment in a small residential setting accommodating 11–19 people. During their stay, residents are supported to develop skills and strategies to manage their emotional, spiritual, physical and social wellbeing to help with their recovery.

Jenny Boyle, General Manager of Operations at Odyssey, said Te Wairua provides services to people who require specialised mental health support in addition to general alcohol and other drug services.

Te Wairua offers an option for people who may be living with moderate to severe mental health issues, who would benefit from a residential stay to support them with their addiction challenges.

Ms Boyle said the program is based on a treatment approach called a therapeutic community, with the service provided in a home‑like environment in a residential area.

Everyone who lives or works in our therapeutic community lives by a set of shared values, known as our pillars. These are trust, honesty, responsibility, concern and love. Learning occurs in the way everyone lives and works together as residents and staff, and in the roles and responsibilities shared across the community. It’s all about helping people gain skills to be more in control of their life, free from drug, alcohol or other addiction challenges.

Ms Boyle said routine is critical to the success of the program. Each house follows a timetable of scheduled jobs, activities and group sessions, as well as time for recreation or relaxation.

We offer a range of supportive, evidence‑based interventions, as well as creative, social, cultural and outdoor activities, such as kapa haka [traditional Māori performance] or other tikanga Māori [customary practices or behaviours] study and practice. There are also work training programs available.

Residents are able to stay in the program for a number of months and Odyssey works in partnership with other community agencies to ensure they are supported before, during and after their stay.

Residents have noted the program has helped them recover and to change their behaviour. One resident said:

All the connections I need in my life to have a healthy lifestyle are back in my life and I’m starting to see the person I used to be, but an even better version. I’m a better mother, a better person. I’ve found that love and acceptance of myself. I like that.

Source: Odyssey, ‘Te Wairua’ [accessed 19 October 2020]; Visit to Odyssey House with Commissioner Armytage, 17 September 2019.