Supporting Gifted People's Wellbeing


Dr Melanie Wong

Senior lecturer in social work, Manukau Institute of Technology
New Zealand



In 2015, world leaders, including the New Zealand government, dedicated their countries to meeting the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the aim of transforming the world in all countries and for all people. The third SDG is good health and well-being and a target within this goal focuses on promoting mental health and well-being. The well-being of gifted people – young and older – must be acknowledged and included because, quite simply, well-being is a human right.


However, social and political underpinnings and power influence norms and dominate the environment, with the result that many gifted voices are not fully heard. Over the years I have been involved in the gifted community, through research, education and counselling, I have learnt that the mental and emotional needs of gifted people are still not universally recognised, and that this section of society is too often ignored and misunderstood. Gifted people can be stimulated by what is happening around them, so they process and perceive things differently from how many others might. The emotional intensity and sensitivity of gifted people can disturb the norm. Indeed, these characteristics mean that gifted people are often seen as abnormal and their behaviours are generally not acceptable in social groups. When promoting well-being, we need to appreciate that the intensity and sensitivity often displayed by gifted people are a typical characteristic of giftedness and are not necessarily indicative of mental health problems. 


I would like to share Mason Durie’s (2011) holistic health model Te Whare Tapa Wha to the gifted community as a way to understand and support gifted people’s well-being.


The model presents the four sides of a whare (house), with each side – taha wairua (spirituality), taha hinengaro (intellect and emotions/mental), taha tinana (the human body/physical) and taha whānau (human relationships/family) – influencing an individual’s wellbeing. The whare focuses on the relationship between the four sides of the house; each side is associated with and supports the others. The whare illustrates that people should look at health in a holistic way and as a balanced connection. The model brings a bi-cultural and holistic approach to well-being and can be applied to different contexts. 


Applying this model to gifted people, we can see how the four sides of the whare wrap around our everyday lives. Our taha wairua (spirituality) is influenced by the people and environment around us; our taha hinengaro (feelings) can influence our health; we need to care for our bodies and physical health (taha tinana) to prevent illness (both physical and mental); and our taha whānau (families and relationships) give us strength to overcome challenges. I believe that holistic health and mauri ora (well-being) are important for every gifted person; we need to get a good balance between the four walls of the whare. When we emphasise self-care, we are not only looking after our health and well-being, but also our self-identity so that we can stand tall and be proud of who we are as a gifted person. Gifted people need to be resilient when we are misunderstood, because we are not a problem. We also need to appreciate what we have in front of us, for good or bad, everything is a learning experience. 


Here is a brochure for supporting gifted young people, however, the information applies similarly to other age groups.


Click here to view


About Dr Melanie Wong

Dr Melanie Wong is a senior lecturer in social work at the Manukau Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand. She is also a counsellor and a trained Interactive Drawing Therapist.

Melanie completed her PhD at University of Canterbury, with a thesis that focused on using social constructionism as a lens to explore giftedness. She has an extensive interest in giftedness and research on giftedness through a holistic approach.





Posted as part of the 2020 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Blog Tour, run by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

The views and opinions expressed in the Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of NZCGE, their staff, and/or any/all contributors to Gifted Awareness Week.

Supporting Gifted People's Wellbeing

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