We’re aiming to reduce Māori suicide rates

By Sheridan Duncan, Kai Whakatuarā Rangatahi

Māori suicide rates are nearly double those of other ethnic groups in New Zealand. According to a recent Radio New Zealand report, suicide prevention researcher Dr Nicole Coupe says that for Māori, one reason for this might be the experience of feeling disconnected from their culture.

“If Māori are secure in their identity, they identify with their own ethnicity, they’re connected to their community, they know their whakapapa and are connected to their family, they are much less likely to harm themselves", Dr Coupe says.

Connection to whakapapa is something Te Piki Oranga emphasises in its kaupapa Māori approach to wellness. Te Piki Oranga’s Kaiwhakatuarā Rangatahi Sheridan Duncan says that if Māori maintain their overall well-being, suicide shouldn’t be a factor in their lives. Sheridan aims to share this message with rangatahi across the region.

“I am setting up groups of rangatahi to understand their perspective on well-being,” she says. “I want to ask questions like, what is wellbeing to you? Why is it important? How can it be maintained and what happens if it’s not? What ways do you enhance your well-being?”

Sheridan expects to gain a much greater understanding of the perspective of rangatahi by working with them to create well-being plans that will be posted on Facebook, reviewed, and voted on by rangatahi across the region.

“We currently have six Rangatahi Wellness Action groups set up. Each will come up with a proposal to answer those questions about well-being. Then we’ll put them on our TPO 4 Whānau Facebook page so everyone can vote for the best wellness enhancing project. Voting will be FIERCE and #therecanonlybeone. I encourage everyone to follow along and share your thoughts with us.”

If you know someone who may be experiencing depression or suicidal ideologies, contact one of these 24/7 helplines: Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865; Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757 or free text 4202; or Lifeline 0800 543 354.

For non-urgent assistance, Te Piki Oranga’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services team can offer support to whānau referred by GPs, schools, and Nelson Marlborough Health.