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Te Whare Tapa Whā (a model to help understand wellbeing)

Image of a house showing the Te Whare Tapa Whā concepts described in the textOur mental health is connected to our overall wellbeing. So, it's helpful to understand what contributes to and affects our wellbeing. Sometimes, having a visual model or framework helps us understand how things fit together.

Te Whare Tapa Whā (the four-sided house) is a Māori model of health. It's taught in schools and universities in Aotearoa. The model is a widely accepted way to describe how all aspects of our lives are interconnected. This means our understanding of wellbeing must be holistic. (Holistic means looking at something as a whole, not just the sum of its parts.)

The model presents our wellbeing (hauora) as four connected domains (the four walls of the house):

The natural environment we live in and depend on underpins these four domains. The model represents this by whenua/land.

Events and circumstances in any of these domains affects the rest of our wellbeing. For example, being physically unwell or injured can also affect our mental health. It can also affect the mental health of our whānau and friends.

There are other indigenous models of wellbeing/hauora from Aotearoa and the Pacific. These include Te Wheke and Fonofale. They all share the idea of wellbeing as an interconnected experience woven through all aspects of our lives including our whānau/family.

Te Whare Tapa Whā provides a way of understanding how events and experiences ripple across our lives. It also shows how we can use strengths from one part of our wellbeing to support another.

Two key lessons of Te Whare Tapa Whā are:

It's important to remember the role of whenua (the natural environment) in our wellbeing. For Māori, the natural world has a special significance. It's inseparable from, and crucial to, the health of whānau.

Nature can play an important part in supporting and restoring our health and wellbeing. For example, providing food and clean drinking water. It can give us opportunities to reflect, experience awe and beauty or have fun and exercise. It can also give us a place to belong.

On the next page: Getting started with wellbeing and building resilience

Written by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created March 2021.

Te Whare Tapa Whā image used with permission from the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

Page reference: 838688

Review key: HIMEN-176608