WARNING: This story deals with suicide and may be distressing.

The uplift of Ziporah Huirama, her isolation from whānau, and her treatment in mental health care before she died by suspected suicide have been described as a "savage injustice" by an advocate.

Ziporah spent more than a decade in state care, including prison and mental health facilities, where she was often in solitary confinement, medicated and eventually died in a suspected suicide.

Now the 27-year-old's death is one of at least three by young Māori whose mothers have made a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal for the losses they say are directly linked to colonisation.

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READ MORE: Suspected suicide: Esther Osborne spent 10 years at a mental health facility before she died. Her family want answers
Waitangi Tribunal to hear claim Māori suicide linked to ongoing effects of colonisation

It comes as a Māori suicide prevention symposium run by the University of Otago is held today in Wellington.

Tasilofa Huirama, Jane Stevens and Suzy Taylor want change to the way Māori are treated for mental health and hope their claims will force the need for alternative care in "safe" places such as on marae, into the spotlight.

Stevens, whose 21-year-old son Nicky took his own life in March 2015 while under the care of Waikato District Health Board, said systemic change was desperately needed to curb high Māori suicide rates.

"The largely mainstream medical model that we've had to work with for a very long time doesn't work."

Stevens, of Ngāi Tahu, said it was extremely difficult to access comprehensive, well-resourced services that recognise Māori culture and identity, which she believes is crucial to reducing suicide.

"For me, the process of the Waitangi Tribunal was a way of having a deeper, more nuanced, more researched, more open conversation around what has happened and what needs to happen.

"How do we really move things forward in a researched and informed and empathetic way unless we can have those deeper, critical conversations?"

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Georgia MacBeath not long before she died by suicide in July 2016. Photo / Supplied
Georgia MacBeath not long before she died by suicide in July 2016. Photo / Supplied

Stevens, who is on a panel at today's symposium, said not a lot had changed "on the ground" since the government inquiry into mental health and addiction was set up more than two years ago.

Taylor's 19-year-old daughter Georgia MacBeath killed herself in 2016 in Rotorua.

The teenager, who suffered from depression and anxiety, made a serious attempt on her life 10 weeks earlier and was discharged from hospital on medication.

Taylor, now a trained counsellor, grew up in a Pākehā world and was empowered enough to ask for help but says she didn't really get it from a system she believes currently incapable of providing appropriate treatment.

"She wasn't ever offered any other options, any kaupapa Māori perspectives or rūnunga, or any kind of wrap-around service. Neither of us was. We were just sort of left dangling out there."

Taylor, of Whakatōhea, said she doesn't want to look in the eyes of one more mother and see the loss of a child by suicide.

Ziporah's death was particularly devastating, she said.

"I think in Tasi's situation she was dictated to because she didn't know. She wasn't made aware of the process for her daughter. And I just think it's been a savage injustice what's happened to her daughter."

Suzy Taylor has funding to research overseas models that have reduced suicide rates in countries such as Iceland in the hopes it can be adopted in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Suzy Taylor has funding to research overseas models that have reduced suicide rates in countries such as Iceland in the hopes it can be adopted in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

Huirama, whose daughter also went by the name Esther Osborne, said she wanted accountability, answers and change.

"We didn't really spend much time with her once she ended up in the hands of CYFS [now Oranga Tamariki]. She went to CYFS at the age of 11. From then on she was always gone."

A coroner's inquest into Ziporah's death in 2016 has yet to be set.

Lawyer for the claim, Stephanie Roughton, said it was expected to be heard by the tribunal in September.

Huirama, of Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāpuhi descent, has also applied to be a claimant in the Waitangi Tribunal's urgent inquiry into the way Oranga Tamariki removes Māori children and takes them into state care.

Roughton said the importance of the claims was two-fold; To address the whānau experiences, so that their voices were heard and documented, allowing healing.

"But also one of the key outcomes is policy changes and seeing change happen so that future generations are not subject to the same discrimination, the same treatment."

A Capital and Coast District Health Board spokesman said the DHB again expressed sincerest sympathies to Ziporah's whānau and acknowledged the loss of a family member in such circumstances was traumatic.

However, he said because of privacy issues the DHB could not comment publicly about Ziporah's treatment.

The Ministry of Health did not answer questions on Māori mental health care.

Read Ziporah's full story here.

A selfie of Tasi Huirama, Suzy Taylor and Jane Stevens at the February 2018 Suicide Prevention Conference in Wellington. Photo / Supplied
A selfie of Tasi Huirama, Suzy Taylor and Jane Stevens at the February 2018 Suicide Prevention Conference in Wellington. Photo / Supplied

WHERE TO GET HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland (available 24/7)

• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 ,free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat.

NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)

KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)

WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757

SAMARITANS – 0800 726 666.