Service user experiences of short-term maternal mental health respite : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
Maternal mental health has been an international public health priority since 2000, however, in New Zealand it is only in the last five years that significant resources have been allocated to address this issue. Maternal mental health respite facilities are unique to New Zealand and cater for mothers and their babies during periods of perinatal distress between the second trimester of pregnancy to one year postpartum. Although formal audits and quality control measures have been undertaken, to date, there are no scientific studies concerning user experiences of this type of respite facility. This study explores the experiences of residents of the short-term maternal mental health respite facility in Auckland ‘He Kakano Ora’ during their first postpartum year. Eight semi-structured interviews were conducted and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Findings show high user satisfaction with the services provided by the facility and highlight a number of themes significant to the respondents’ experiences. The overarching theme, elicited from the interview data, was mental health recovery. Therefore, when mothers talked about their experiences at the facility, they described it in terms of their needs for mental health recovery. These needs included uninterrupted sleep, mothercraft support and social interactions with other residents. Additionally, the importance of the facility environment, direct mental health support and adjustment to the facility operations was described by mothers as important factors that influence their recovery while at He Kakano Ora. These results highlight the significance of respite provisions from the users’ perspectives and the essential role of the facility in the mental health recovery of postnatal mothers. It adds to the body of knowledge about the New Zealand postnatal population affected by mental health distress and highlights the need for further research in respite and maternal mental health settings in New Zealand.