Warning: Distressing content.
Kiwi mums suffering from postnatal depression are taking their own lives because they have no one to turn to. First-time mums have described being left alone after traumatic births during lockdown. A powerful public movement in Parliament on Wednesday aimed to bring decades of maternal failures to light. Emma Russell reports.
A harrowing three-minute film depicting a struggling pregnant woman who ended up taking her own life had politicians, mums and health experts holding back tears.
The video was screened for the first time in Parliament yesterday as part of a powerful public movement against the "shaming" treatment of mums before and after giving birth in New Zealand.
In the film - created by Moonshine Films in partnership with advocacy group Mothers Matter - a pregnant woman is trapped in a violent relationship when she discovers she's pregnant. The woman tells her partner and he leaves her.
"It moves through a time of inexplicable stresses that many experience, but few of us can comprehend - substance abuse to dull the pain of betrayal, loneliness, fear of the unknown or of the future," founder of Mothers Matter Chloe Wright told the Herald.
Near the end of the film, the woman's father finds a note saying "I'm sorry", left next to her baby. She is gone and her heartbroken father petitions for change.
The film ends with the words "We approached the Government for help. They turned us away."
Politicians - including Health Minister Andrew Little, Minister of Women Jan Tinetti, Act leader David Seymour, National MPs Simon Bridges and Louise Upston - were left stunned.
"The story in this film, I saw it every day," midwife Tish Tahia told them.
Tahia, an advocate for Mothers Matter who has worked at one of the biggest District Health Boards in the country for 22 year, said the maternal care system was broken.
"But I now see hope," she said.
The nationwide Mothers Matter campaign is protesting against women being discharged from hospital after giving birth without any support, a postcode lottery for maternal care, lack of wraparound services for struggling mums, and cultural and economic barriers for new mums to get help.
About maternal suicide in New Zealand
• Every year at least 10 women are lost to maternal suicide in New Zealand - and experts say that's the "tip of the iceberg" as many go unreported. Māori and Pasifika are far less likely to report postnatal depression.
• One in seven new mums suffer postnatal depression after giving birth.
• The reported rate of maternal suicide in New Zealand is five times higher per capita than that of the UK, with Māori women overrepresented.
• On average a child dies every five weeks as a result of violence in New Zealand.
Looking for support? It's available
Call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922
Depression helpline: Freephone 0800 111 757
Healthline: 0800 611 116 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week and free to callers throughout New Zealand, including from a mobile phone)
Lifeline: 0800 543 35
Samaritans: 0800 726 666