He Hohonga Kōrero – The Conversation Café

5 Jun 2020 | Mental Health & Addiction Quality Improvement

Whanganui residents have continued to meet during the COVID-19 lockdown, in a café with a difference!

The Conversation Café meets monthly, via video conference, to discuss the challenges of living with mental health and addiction (MHA) issues as well as MHA service developments planned to address some of the challenges people are facing.

The Conversation Café is a collaborative including the iwi-led health organisation Te Oranganui, the Whanganui District Health Board (DHB) MHA service, the peer-led MHA non-governmental organisation (NGO) Balance Aotearoa, and the family and whānau organisation Mental Health & Wellbeing Support. Support has also recently come from another peer-led NGO, Changing Minds. It brings people together to relax and chat about some of the region’s important challenges and changes.

Meeting since October 2019, the gatherings have provided ideas, input and insight into MHA services and systems, and generated feedback on areas that need improvement.

Themes that have been discussed include: the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s (the Commission’s) MHA quality improvement programme; service change at the Whanganui DHB; and the prevention of suicide in the Whanganui area and beyond. Recently, guest speaker Barry Taylor talked about his significant career in suicide prevention.

Participants have enjoyed being listened to and ‘feeling genuinely heard’.

The transition from an in-person café, with people seated around five tables, to people bringing their own refreshments to their computer screens (or phones) and meeting online, has been seamless.

Kathy Haskell, former innovation and change manager at Whanganui DHB, said, ‘The participants have really loved this process. One said something that really resonated: hope comes alive in these conversations.’

Frank Bristol, poutu whakahaere at Balance Aotearoa, added: ‘The idea came from the Commission’s co-design training, really, as they used a thing called the World Café. It helps to amplify the local consumer voice in the Commission’s MHA quality improvement projects, which the Whanganui DHB are working on. It also improves input into community wellbeing initiatives and suicide prevention planning, locally.’


Shaun McNeil, national consumer, family and whānau engagement advisor, mental health and addiction quality improvement programme, Health Quality & Safety Commission.

Last updated 05/06/2020