Student a step closer to goal of improving Pasifika mental health

Tongan postgraduate student Jordan Quensell at the University of Otago yesterday. PHOTO: PETER...
Tongan postgraduate student Jordan Quensell at the University of Otago yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Tongan postgraduate student Jordan Quensell is delighted to have gained entry to the University of Otago clinical psychology programme and wants to improve mental health in Tonga.

Mr Quensell (23) had always wanted to serve his Pasifika community and was "incredibly grateful" to be able to use his training to help the many Pacific Islanders "achieve their goals and overcome mental illness” .

"That’s probably the main thing that motivates me," he said yesterday.

The Tongan mental health system as a whole "needs a bit of reform", and he aimed to use evidence-based science.

He was relieved to have gained entry to the competitive-entry, postgraduate Otago programme, having dreamed of this for the past five years, and made an unsuccessful attempt in 2019.

It is believed about 90 people applied for entry to the latest programme, which is limited to ten students annually.

To boost his chances, he last year added an honours year to his undergraduate psychology degree.

For the next two years he will study for a postgraduate diploma in clinical psychology and a PhD; then will undertake two more years of PhD study, and an internship year.

Born and raised in Auckland, he last year received a Brain Research New Zealand Pacific Summer Research Scholarship to extend Otago Associate Prof Liana Machado’s stair-climbing research to older adults.

The research explored the role of exercise in supporting healthy cognitive function, which was particularly beneficial for the elderly as cognitive function declined.

He has tutored psychology students at the Pacific Islands Centre and volunteered at Otago’s sexual violence and support centre, Te Whare Tawharau.

Mr Quensell will undertake research with the elderly in Tonga.

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