There are several well-known Māori models of mental health wellbeing, including Te Pae Mahutonga and Tu Wheke and Te Ware Tapa Whā which is probably the bestknown model of wellness.
With its strong foundations and four equal sides, the symbol of the wharenui illustrates the four dimensions of Māori wellbeing which are all interlocking and essential.
If one of the four dimensions is missing or becomes damaged a person may become unbalanced and unwell.
The four cornerstones of health as illustrated above are described by Mason Durie (1994) as follows:
Taha tinana (physical health)
The capacity for physical growth and development
Good physical health is required for optimal development
Our physical ‘being’ supports our essence and shelters us from the external environment.
For Māori the physical dimension is just one aspect of health and wellbeing and cannot be separated from the aspect of mind, spirit, and family.
Taha wairua (spiritual health)
The capacity for faith and wider communication and a belief in the non-material world.
Health is related to unseen and unspoken energies.
The spiritual essence of a person is their life force. This determines us as individuals and as a collective, who and what we are, where we have come from and where we are going.
A traditional Māori analysis of physical manifestations of illness will focus on the wairua or spirit, to determine whether damage here could be a contributing factor.
Taha whānau (family health)
The capacity to belong, to care and to share where individuals are part of wider social systems.
Whānau provides us with the strength to be who we are.
This is the link to our ancestors, our ties with the past, the present and the future.
Understanding the importance of whānau and how whānau (family) can contribute to illness and assist in curing is fundamental to understanding Māori health issues.
Taha hinengaro (mental health)
The capacity to communicate, to think and to feel mind and body are inseparable.
Thoughts, feelings, and emotions are integral components of the body and soul.
This is about how we see ourselves in this universe, our interaction with that which is uniquely Māori and the perception that others have of us.