The last column I wrote on mental health was during the onset of the Delta variant and when the pandemic was mentally hitting us hard.
People were vaccine-hesitant and lots of us were in lockdown fatigue. There was anger at mandates, businesses were suffering and tikanga was adapting on the marae. Overall, it was a hugely challenging time to get through.
Most of us have made it ā-tinana (physically), but for some, the mental impact inflicted by the pandemic may last for a very long time.
The whakataukī "he purapura ora, he mara tipu" describes the recovering seed, within the garden of growth. Figuratively, describing the survivors or those who have managed to withstand despite a whole lot of external factors impeding its development.
We all need to be in nurturing environments just like the vegetables in our mara (garden). Although, when external factors such as herbicides, a change in temperature or Covid-19 are introduced without our control, our ecology becomes disturbed.
As Mental Health statistics worsen for Māori, our ecology has been and continues to be disturbed by the longing effects of colonisation, intergenerational trauma, and a huge disconnect to who we are in an ecological system overturned.
Every report written refers to the need to adopt a tikanga-based framework as the primary informer of our values and behaviours passed down through the generations. How tikanga Māori manifests though, does vary from iwi to hapū, hapū to marae, and marae to whānau, and that's what makes it extremely unique.
Our current values-based treatments in place, assume a standard belief that there are only one set of universal values that extend across all cultures. Ultimately, this assumption and naivety denies the uniqueness of our indigenous truth, practices (tikanga), aspirations, and experiences in the process of recovery and treatment ~ "he purapura ora."
The Rangatahi Suicide Report, Te Mauri The Life Force,supports the research that connects the effects of colonisation and historical trauma to the social, political and structural setting within which rangatahi Māori are living.
As the process of colonisation unravelled, our ecological system became overturned. Our communities were fragmented as our groups of iwi, hapū and whānau were stripped of the ability to nourish each other with our tikanga.
This is where colonisation flourished – uninvitingly disturbing the ecology of tangata whenua. And interestingly, waiata (songs), mōteatea (laments), Pūrakāu (ancient legends) and karakia created and passed down through generations pre-colonisation make no mention of suicide. Thus symbolic of its rarity.
To uphold tikanga, we first need to learn about it and that is built around interconnectedness to your whakapapa. Who you are and where you come from.
As I mentioned in my tribute to Moana Jackson, the second largest iwi is – I don't know my iwi, and so therein lies the next issue.
Right now, the only thing that makes it attractive to determine your whakapapa links to your iwi are our education scholarships and so we have a huge challenge to get creative in that space.
Modern models of health built on the foundations of tikanga Māori have been created to serve a growing population with a lack of connection and still dealing with the intergenerational issues.
Among these models are Te Wheke by Rose Pere, used defining family health and the Meihana Model fusing clinical and cultural competences by Suzanne Meihana.
Last year's column was based on Tā Mason Durie's Te Whare Tapa Whā which is probably the most widely used and adopted model tending to serve Māori health. The four dimensions in this model Taha Hingengaro (Mind), Taha Wairua (Spirit), Taha Tinana (Physical) and Taha Whānau (family) rely on one another to be strong standing and this the underlying factor in determining one's behavior and values.
Tikanga Māori changes by whānau, iwi and hapū and although these models acknowledge our intrinsic connection to the complex factors that make us who we are, we can go beyond and dive down into community models such as what I see in Whanganui.
Community-led micro-models being implemented in Whanganui by Iwi collective Te Ranga Tupua have initiated a collaborative program called 'Are you all goods?' It may seem so simple but checking in on people in their communities has been hugely successful with friends and whānau making sure they are in a healthy space.
The uniqueness of tikanga Māori means not one model or methodology can fix our ecological system overnight.
Reconnecting to our roots, using these models, growing initiatives on the ground in our communities need to work in unison to sprout the best of who we are.
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is co-leader of Te Pāti Māori.