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July 10, 2016 | by  | in Opinion |
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We Need to Talk about Suicide

“Māori health does not take shape in the body alone, but within the trials and opportunities which make up the journey.”

The korero of Tā Mason Durie speaks on the journey, but what about the end of the journey and the mamae that sometimes pushes people to the finish line? Talking about the difficult times makes us uncomfortable. The reality is that there are plenty of things that make us feel uncomfortable, but when we make light of serious issues there is a problem.

We need to talk about suicide.

The journey of whakamomori is enclosed in deep-rooted sadness with a severe impact on the mauri and wairua of the person affected, often to a point where suicide attempts can occur. Responding to this and diverting the journey back to a secure path requires understanding that cultural and spiritual contexts are often difficult to capture. However seeing the journey as not ours alone, but as a fleeting moment of a wider journey, as a singular link in our whakapapa, could help.

The continuation of life is integral to the survival of humankind, of our whakapapa, and its connection between the spiritual and physical worlds. The tragic loss of life through suicide severs the links in whakapapa, working against the goal of survival of whakapapa for whānau.  

The state of suicide rates of Māori is no different to general health inequalities, significantly worse for Māori than other New Zealanders. This isn’t anything new to health professionals. What is new is the state of emergency that other countries are broadcasting about the alarming statistics in indigenous suicides across the world. We face additional risk factors of cultural alienation and conflicting cultural identity brought about through the negative impacts of colonisation.

This isn’t an issue for Māori alone, it is an issue for all indigenous peoples. We all share the same struggles whether it is for our independence or our reo; we can see our own histories in what is happening in other indigenous communities. As a result, there are increasing forums in which indigenous communities gather to share their struggles and to find collective solutions.  

Healing Our Spirit Worldwide 2015 focused on methods to come together to share indigenous strength, hope, and wisdom to create solutions to issues in community health, governance, and substance abuse. I, alongside recent Victoria alumni Dan McCool and Grace Walker, presented on rangatahi perspectives to indigenous leadership, solutions, potential, and futures. Turamarama ki te Ora 2016 saw Victoria student Mauriora Tawaroa Takiari play an integral role throughout the conference. Issues of suicide are not ours alone, and now we look for ways to address disparities of indigenous peoples together. Ma whero ma pango ka oti ai te mahi.


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