Tertiary study in mental health, addiction and social services helps Whitireia graduates grow in the workplace

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Michael Toetoe, who works as a housing advocate at the Wellington City Mission, and Lily Talamaivao, who is a part-time support worker for the Oasis Community Cafe in Waitangirua, have both recently graduated from the Level Four Certificate in Health and Wellbeing at Whitireia (Te Pūkenga).

“Addiction and mental health is a very complex area, and the more I understand about it, the better I can help my clients at the City Mission,” says Michael. “That is why I enrolled at Whitireia (Te Pūkenga) with a focus on mental health and addiction support.

“The more I understand my clients and what motivates them, the more success we will have in safely placing them in a house which best suits their needs. If I know what is happening with them, and why, then I can help them get the best outcomes,” says Michael.

“Before I did the programme at Whitireia, I had a limited understanding of mental health and addiction, and now I have become a lot more open minded and tolerant and have a much deeper understanding of it. It fits in so well with my work and I am so pleased that I now have more knowledge.”

Lily Talamaivao is a support worker volunteer in Waitangirua for clients with mental health and disability challenges. Lily advocates on their behalf to various Government agencies, or helps gather information about resources in the community that is helpful for them. Her aim is to complete a Bachelor of Social Work, but had not studied for over eight years since leaving school. Lily enrolled for the one year level four certificate in health and wellbeing at Whitireia as a first step to her degree.

“When the thought of studying came to mind, I searched through both WelTec and Whitireia sites for a programme that would support my interests. I learned that both institutions had learning support services for students. It had been years since I'd buried my head in a book so I felt comforted to know that there was wrap-around support for students and their journeys at Whitireia and WelTec. I also chose Whitireia in Porirua as the location was ideal for me. I was able to attend classes, juggle my jobs, and be a mother of three young girls, all in the same area,” explains Lily. 

“This programme prepared me well for the health sector and what to expect in the industry,” says Lily. “The main thing I did learn was boundaries. It’s quite challenging to recognise when you’re building a relationship with a client and overstepping your own boundaries. I was able to learn skills about how to set professional boundaries which I believe is something you would need when working with people in the community. Just to protect yourself and your clients. 

“My heart belongs with supporting people. And my aspiration in life is to work for something I’m passionate about. It is empowering and supporting people in our community. In 5 years I see myself among the community, supporting families in living their lives the best they could and being a part of that change. Whitireia has helped me on my journey to this.”

More information on health and wellbeing programmes at Whitireia (Te Pūkenga):


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