National | Australia

Better mental health resources needed for Māori men in Aus

For every Māori man who takes his own life in Australia, it's estimated that up to 20 make an attempt, according to Suicide Prevention Australia chairman Mathew Tukaki.

“The suicide rate amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is quite high and so when you have a look at the break down of ethnic groups across Australia, you see the 'creepage' or the growing number of Māori particularly in the state of Queensland and New South Wales.”

Māori psychiatrist Dr Matira Taikato based in Queensland says shes “not aware of any specific mental health services in Queensland designed for Māori men.”

The mining and construction industry

Tukaki says suicide amongst Māori men is a major concern in the Australian mining industry, where men are away from their families for long periods of time.

“The tyranny of distance becomes isolation and within an isolated community, you tend to do things you might not," he says.

“The second thing is the financial stress and pressure brought on families now that that mining boom is over.”

Taikato says construction and mining are traditionally male-dominated workplaces which encourage stoicism, whereby men don’t want to appear weak by seeking help.

“This means they don’t receive the early interventions they need."

Further associated stressors may include social isolation, workplace bullying and access to alcohol and drugs, she says.

Support provided for Māori men in Aotearoa and Australia

Tukaki says there are better resources available across Australia to support indigenous men compared to what’s provided in Aotearoa.

“If I have a look across the Tasman to Australia, aboriginal men's groups get together in a circle once a month and talk about what's going on in their lives.  That has a massive amount of impact and it's only a very simple thing to do," he says.

“When you come to New Zealand there's not the breadth or depth of services available for Māori men.”

Mental health advocate Ezekiel Raui says it's hard to determine whether initiatives in New Zealand are reaching Māori men across the ditch.

“I know that a lot of our Māori services here, specifically Te Rau Ora have been trying to reach out to our tāne Māori to our Māori families over in Australia but obviously being in a different country, under different government and under different laws, I’m not too sure how successful or not that has been.”

He also says there are limited resources, if any, specifically tailored towards tāne Māori in Aotearoa.

“When you grow up from te ao Māori view, the idea of stepping into a generic service, into a system that wasn't necessarily built to cater or speak to our needs can become quite difficult," he says.

“So the challenge is, now that we have tāne more willing to open up, we need to b able to provide those services, those supports from a te ao Māori point of view.”

Tukaki agrees, “We've got to get to a point where Māori organisations are developing solutions for people in Māori communities wherever Māori are, whether they're here in New Zealand or over in Australia.”