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Source: Massey University

Professor David Johnston, Director of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research.

Massey researchers have received $126,000 from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund for research on a psychosocial response and recovery framework for COVID-19.

Director of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Professor David Johnston, says the research will provide an evidence base for a national guideline that can be used by many agencies.

Professor Johnston says although there are a number of current New Zealand frameworks to inform pandemic response and recovery, the current pandemic requires an upscaling and updating of psychosocial support guidance to address needs.

“During a pandemic there is distress in the population and everyone will be affected in some way. The COVID-19 pandemic has been beyond the lived experience of most of us. It is a highly changing situation – six weeks ago you couldn’t imagine where we are now. So in this context, we are interested in finding out how we support people at all levels. How do we support the wellbeing of people?” he says.

The primary objectives of psychosocial support interventions are to minimise the psychological and social consequences of a crisis, and to enhance the emotional and social well-being of individuals, families, whānau and communities.

The project will aim to meet these objectives by providing updated and relevant information as guidance and support for organisations – such as regional councils, district health boards and businesses – involved in planning, coordinating and delivering psychosocial interventions.

Professor Johnston says the team will draw on their experience of working on the Canterbury earthquake. “This work builds on previous psychosocial recovery experience of our team to understand how the COVID-19 context changes the response,” he says.

Professor Johnston will be joined by Dr Maureen Mooney, also from the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, along with a multidisciplinary team of researchers from across Massey as well as researchers from Canterbury, Charles Darwin and Melbourne Universities. The project will also have input from emerging researchers, Māori researchers, and graduate students from Massey and partner universities.

The project began in June and will carry on through to February 2021.