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September 10, 2018 | by  | in Opinion Te Ao Mārama |
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Kua Tae Mai te Wā

On Wednesday 22 August, three hundred students rallied to Parliament to demand for better funding of tertiary mental health services as part of The Wait is Over student campaign. At the rally, there were three student speakers. One of these speakers was Maia Te Koha. Below is her speech that moved the crowd to tears and was followed by a haka from Ngāi Tauira nō te whare wānanga o Wikitōria and Te Rōpū Māori nō te whare wānanga o Ōtākou.

“Tēnā tātou katoa, Tēnā rā koutou kua tae mai i tēnei rā i runga i te karanga o te huihuinga nei. Kua tae mai tātou hei kaikawe i tēnei kaupapa, hei tuara mō o tātou hoa me o tātou whanau e noho mauiui ana, hei waha kōrero mō rātou e noho ngū ana; nō reira kōrero mai, kōrero mai, kōrero mai.

Today I am speaking on behalf of my older sister, Hine-iwhakina-te-rangi Ngarimu, who in January 2013 passed away after taking her own life. My sister was a 4th year student at Victoria University. She had many friends, great flatmates and a caring family. My sister was loved, and yet she was quietly suffering; suffering from an illness we couldn’t see, which in the end became something she could not overcome on her own. Hinerangi never presented symptoms of mental health issues to us, her friends or the services at Victoria. I often ask myself what I could have said or done differently. How often did I take the time to ask how she was doing? Did I tell her I missed spending time with her? That I love her? How often do any of us take the time to ask the ones we love how they are, or tell them that we love them? How often to we take the time to ask ourselves how we are? Our silence is the enemy of change. Me patu te taniwha o te nohopuku. Today is the day we stop being silent about the way we feel. Kōrero mai, kōrero mai, kōrero mai! Let’s talk about our mental health the same way we talk about any other natural part of our being. Mental health shouldn’t take a back seat to physical or spiritual health. Mental health issues are not a weakness or personality trait, they are a medical condition which deserves to be addressed and taken care of like any other physical health condition. If aren’t expected to just ‘get over’ a broken bone, asthma or the flu; we shouldn’t be expected to just ‘get over’ our mental health issues either.

Let’s normalise improving our mental health and support each other the way we encourage ourselves and loved ones to eat healthy or go to the gym. Having open conversations about these illnesses, choosing to no longer be silent is our first step in eroding the stigma around mental health and making it easier for our friends and whanau to ask for help. Pātua te ngangara o te wahangū. We deserve a health service and resources that meet our needs. We deserve to have a government that recognises the needs of its country’s young people, and work with us to fulfil them. We deserve to always be in our best health.

E te iwi, kua tāwhiti kē tō tātou haerenga mai, kia kore e haere tonu. He nui rawa o tātou mahi, kia kore e mahi tonu. We’ve come too far not to go further, we’ve done too much not to do more. The time for silence is over, it’s time for action. Kia ora.”

Nā Maia Te Koha

Ngāti Porou

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