Lived experience drives passion

Meet Ann-Marie Higgins, our Quality Improvement Coordinator, Safety and Equity for Mental Health and Addiction Service.

After working at Counties Manukau Health in 2018 as the Mental Health First Aid Programme Coordinator, during which time more than double the number of Mental Health First Aid courses were delivered on her watch, she was happy to return here in 2021 to the feeling of ‘being part of a big whaanau.’

“I was so excited to start this role. I have always had an interest in health and wellbeing but just haven’t been in a position to pursue a career in medicine.

“I have managed to satisfy my passion for health and wellbeing through my roles here and also my research.”

Ann-Marie held a Research Project Manager/Data Manager role at the University of Auckland, researching the health of older people living in retirement villages within specific areas. The project currently has nine research papers published.

She also studied Psychology with her postgraduate study focused on the mental and physical health status and outcomes for Maaori. 

She received a Te Rau Puawai scholarship, with Massey University, and graduates in May this year with a Post Graduate Diploma in Art Psychology.

“I’m from Whakatane originally, and I whakapapa back to Ngāi Tūhoe and Ngāti Awa, so improving mental health outcomes for Maaori is something that is important for me, especially for involving whaanau in tangata whaiora care, care planning and support. 

“I have four adult children and four mokopuna so making the world better for them is part of it too.

“Suicide prevention is my main area of interest. I have a lot of lived experience being in support roles with almost all mental health and addiction scenarios, so I understand what a lot of whaanau are going through. This has driven my desire to help people and now I feel that I really am able to make more of a difference in this role.”

Ann-Marie has previously worked in a variety of roles including Carter Holt Harvey, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, and ADHB, but says her dreams of coming back to mental health and addiction were realised when she started in her current role.  

“I enjoy working in an organisation that demonstrates its commitment to improving outcomes for all their patients, particularly Maaori, and lives its values whakawhanaungatanga (valuing everyone), kotahitanga (together), manaakitanga (kind), rangitiratanga (excellent).

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