Janette Ng The ‘Doing Well’ Guidebook

  • Tauira / Student
    Janette Ng
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Stephen Reay, Daniel Sutton

The fabric of our lives is woven from the things we spend our time doing, and those we choose to do them with. This is part of the human experience.

Previous research offers insight into how occupational engagement (our day-to-day activities) can facilitate mental wellbeing for individuals, particularly for those in the process of recovery from mental illness. Dr Daniel Sutton’s research and COE model* proposes how we can shift between four different ‘modes of doing’ to achieve balance and create meaning in our lives. For anyone facing mental wellbeing challenges, learning about how to become ‘unstuck’ from certain modes and returning back to a more balanced state is a significant part of recovery.

The ‘Doing Well’ Guidebook is the outcome of a design-led research project** that investigated how this golden nugget of clinically relevant knowledge could transcend academic texts and be placed in the hands of young adults within New Zealand healthcare services.

A body of research to date indicates that improving mental health literacy and sharing hopeful recovery narratives can lead to better health outcomes for those experiencing mental distress. In addition, advocates for young adult mental wellbeing are needed now more than ever.

This resource was proudly constructed not only FOR, but WITH rangatahi who have lived experience.

Clinical staff and clients from Hāpai Ora–an early intervention in psychosis service for young adults (previously under ADHB)–as well as young adults from DHB mental health services across the country were invited into the collaborative design process as experts. Workshops, interviews, and creative drawing activities were intentionally designed to create culturally safe spaces for participants to kōrero and share the personal stories of mental wellness that bring the pages of the final resource to life.

The language and imagery used in the guidebook counter the notion of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ states of occupational engagement. Instead, a spotlight moment is given to how each form of ‘doing’ offers a unique opportunity for an individual to reconnect with a part of themself on their wellbeing journey. Experts were quick to celebrate the light-heartedness and optimism surrounding experiences that are too often associated with guilt or shame.

Perhaps one of the most heartening outcomes was creating a resource that demonstrates the potential illustration and drawing-based activities have in complementing traditional therapeutic approaches within mental health services. Even beyond this context, The ‘Doing Well’ Guidebook is relevant to anyone and everyone willing to visualise their own story of everyday wellness–no matter where they are on their journey!

Special thanks to the Hāpai Ora and Te Whatu Ora nurses, psychologists, and occupational therapists who have integrated this resource in their work every day with rangatahi navigating their mental wellbeing.

*COE model refers to ‘A Contiuum of Occupational Engagement’ from Sutton, D. J., Hocking, C. S., & Smythe, L. A. (2012). A phenomenological study of occupational engagement in recovery from mental illness.
**Ng, J. (2022). Drawing Modes of Doing: Illustrating Stories of Everyday Mental Wellness with Young Adults.