9 Aug 2015

Te Ahuru Mōwai - The impact of suicide on Māori communities

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 9 August 2015

Rotorua-based Māori organisation, Te Runanga o Ngati Pikiao hosted Turamarama ki te Ora, a national suicide prevention hui that brought together a number of key people who work at the forefront of the Māori health sector, academia and indigenous research. The discussion kaupapa was understanding how suicide prevention begins from conception.

The three day conference included discussion from consultant and te reo advocate Moe Milne (Ngāti Hine, Nga Puhi); chief tikanga advisor and general manager at Waitemata and Auckland District Health Board, Naida Glavish (Ngāti Whatua); Māori rights activist and lawyer Moana Jackson (Ngāti Kahungunu); Meridian kinesiologist Maui Te Pou (Tūhoe); and a range of health workers from the mental, youth and social sector. 

Justine Murray presents coverage from the conference.

Kia Piki te Ora Project Leader, Michael Naera.

Kia Piki te Ora Project Leader, Michael Naera. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Turamarama is about hope and it's about the potential of the child, how do we support the child to have protective factors around them such as their language, their own waiata, haka? That's what where we are hoping to achieve from the conference.

- Michael Naera

At one of the local pubs in downtown Taumarunui the bar was replaced with rowing machines and gym equipment after Jamie Downs turned it into a Wellness Centre. In recent years, Jamie suffered from depression and was suicidal after his sight deteriorated. The impairment brought on feelings of depression and as a result Jamie gained weight and at his heaviest, he tipped the scales at 174 kilos. 

His whanau rallied around him, eventually he underwent two cornea transplants, and went on a mission to get well, both in mind and body.

Cue, the Breakthrough Wellness Centre.

Jamie shared his story on social media, called Jamie Downs – The Journey. He went on to lose 74 kilos, but it hasn’t been easy. In recent months as he has become busier, the kilos have crept back on, he says it’s a daily process. Jamie’s story has encouraged others, and he credits his Aunty Tariana Turia and Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho for their ongoing support. He shared his story at the conference.

Creator of The Breakthrough Wellness Centre, Jamie Downs

Creator of The Breakthrough Wellness Centre, Jamie Downs Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

For me, its just about aroha. Showing the people that come through the doors that
everyone is an individual and everyone is dealing with something different, some might be drugs, some might be alcohol, for some it might be weight. When Whaea Tariana said, what are you doing? I said we are helping people go from addiction...because I was there.

- Jamie Downs

Consultant, researcher and te reo Māori advocate Moe Milne describes whakatauki (proverbs)  as ‘jewels of wisdom’. Whakatauki contain only a few words, but contained is a profound message. Her own twist of the whakatauki 'Ko te piko o te māhuri, tera te tupu o te rakau' (The way in which you nurture the sapling, determines how it will grow), was adapted to take on a new meaning which she has used in her work in the Far North, she says, 'Manaakitia te Mahuri – He Tupuna kei roto', to mean look after the sapling, because therein lies your tupuna, your future.

Moe Milne

Moe Milne Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Moe Milne has long been an advocate of the well-being of Māori. At the conference she drew on her personal experiences when one of her whanau went through feelings of suicide.

You know that picture of mai nga tupuna, heke mai ki a koe, mai i a koe ka puta ano te whakapapa, I actually thought  we need to tell her what would happen to our whakapapa if she weren't in it. So we went around all our whanau, and there were a few of us, including the babies, to tell her what would happen to me if she weren't there. What would happen to my mokopuna if she wasn't there, what would happen to her brothers and sisters.

I didn't know if it was a good thing or bad thing or otherwise, but I wanted her to know that she was  precious to us. That she belonged to this whanau, and this whanau will do anything it takes, as we all do, to make it a place for her to function in, to thrive in, to live in.

- Moe Milne

Warner Rahurahu, Navigator of Aotearoa Waka Experience.

Warner Rahurahu, Navigator of Aotearoa Waka Experience. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Warner Rahurahu lost his brother to suicide, what he learned from the experience is that Māori have to be brave and talk to someone. In reflection he says there were warning signs, and part of the issue for his brother was not dealing with his past. Today, Warner helps a lot of people, especially young people who want to take up Waka Ama. He likens the wellbeing of the hinengaro (mind) and wairua (spirit) to the functionality of a waka.

We don't have that outlet, we look to our mates and we have to be tough, we look to our fathers we have to be tough and the reality is is that we don't have that avenue. This kaupapa is awesome because it is about being able to talk with each other. Being able to express what is going on. It doesn't mean we are weak.

- Warner Rahurahu

Mehemea kei te noho koe i te pouritanga, tēnā whātoro atu ki tou whanau, ki ou hoa piripono rānei. Atu i tērā, anei ētahi o nga roopu awhina. (If you are experiencing depression, reach out to whanau or close friends. Here are a number of ways to get help).

Nga Waiata/Featured Music

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