Defining positive mental wellbeing for New Zealand-born Cook Islands youth

Eliza T. Puna, Jemaima Tiatia-Seath


Introduction: Exploring New Zealand-born (NZ-born) Cook Islands youth worldviews acknowledges the diversity that exists amongst Pacific peoples in New Zealand. By improving mental wellbeing and its potential to inform Pacific ethnic specific suicide prevention, it is important that a Cook Islands focus to suicide prevention is applied. Thus, reinforcing the notion that although some approaches may be similar to other Pacific populations, current policy and strategies should not be generalised to a one size fits all. Aim: The aim of the study was to provide some understanding to NZ-born Cook Islands young peoples’ perceptions around positive mental wellbeing with the view that their voices help to inform the development of Cook Islands-specific strategies towards positive mental wellbeing and suicide prevention. Methods: This qualitative study involved 21 face-to-face interviews with NZ-born Cook Islands youth (16-24 years) who resided in Auckland. A talanoa Pacific research methodology was employed to collate data in a culturally appropriate manner. A grounded theory approach was used to analyse this data. Results: An emergent theme from the interviews around positive mental wellbeing was maintaining social and cultural connections. These included connections via: social support networks; pride in their Pacific ethnic identities; cultural participation; and language retention. These were expressed as central to enhancing positive mental wellbeing and suicide prevention measures. Conclusion: These findings contribute to a limited knowledge base. The encouragement and maintenance of social and cultural connections during the formative years of NZ-born Cook Island youths were deemed to be strong buffers against poor mental wellbeing and suicidal behaviours.


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