9 February 2012
New approach to care for mental health unit
A method of care that reduces the need for restraint and seclusion for mental health clients is being introduced to
Greymouth Hospital’s Manaakitanga Acute Admissions Unit.
Sensory modulation is a way for clients to manage, and reduce, their level of anxiety and distress by stimulating the
senses using a combination of techniques and equipment, in a way that promotes soothing and refocusing. The approach may
include the use of warmth, and weight blankets, massage, music or exercise
Part of the approach is setting up a quiet room where, in a peaceful environment, clients can use whatever calming
equipment or technique they find works best for them.
Anne Tacon, West Coast DHB associate director nursing, mental health, says Manaakitanga staff are currently training in
the techniques in collaboration with staff from the Nelson Marlborough DHB and Hillmorton Hospital in Christchurch, and
it is hoped to have the quiet room set up early this year. Training is also supported by Te Pou o Te Whakaaro Nui, an
organisation that offers support and development for mental health, addiction and disability workers.
The use of sensory modulation techniques in New Zealand is being led by occupational therapists, who have taken a lead
role in training nationwide. Once trained, staff will work with a client to establish which of the techniques they find
“The aim is for the client to learn to manage their own anxiety and distress by using sensory modulation techniques.
These techniques will assist the person to effectively self-manage distress on their return home.
“This is an exciting initiative and welcomed by nursing staff who are committed to reducing the need for restraint in
the mental health setting,” she said.
The West Coast DHB’s chief executive David Meates says introducing the new techniques will be a real advance for both
clients and staff. “DHB staff have been working very hard to improve both in-patient and outreach mental health services
for clients on the Coast .
“This is also further evidence of the eagerness of the DHB and its staff to work collaboratively with other DHB’s that
can offer expertise and support.”