Final Report for project ‘He ara toiora: Suicide prevention for Ngātiwai youth through the arts’ (LGB-2016-28888)

From their website: Suicide in New Zealand is considered to be a major health crisis, with Māori taitamariki (youth) featuring in disproportionate numbers as more likely to die from suicide than non-Māori youth. An OECD report noted that New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the developed countries and Māori youth are 2.5 times more likely to die from suicide. During 2012 there was a spike in the number of young people taking their own lives in Te Tai Tokerau, with an increase from 5 in 2011, to 19 in 2012.

As a result of this spike, many organisations in Te Tai Tokerau received funding to devise programmes to address this crisis, with the result being that youth suicide decreased slightly during 2013 and 2014. ‘He ara toiora’ was developed by Ngātiwai Education as a way in which to address the 2012 cluster of suicides, and take a positive focus on developing Ngātiwai-based strategies that respond to the particular needs and requirements of their taitamariki.

The project seeks to realise the objective that ‘the tides of Ngātiwai flow with wellbeing – Kia rere ora pai ngā tai o Ngātiwai’. ‘He ara toiora’ used kaupapa Maori and performative research with marae-based wananga in which taitamariki and adults could (re)connect to marae, whenua and other aspects of Te Ao Maori. This enabled the opening of spaces where conversations about suicide and other life challenges could be safely held, in an atmosphere of respect and aroha.

Findings include ‘you just have to love them’, denoting the importance of connection and belonging while nevertheless acknowledging the difficult contexts within which many taitamariki are mired. Mauri emerged as an important framework through which to understand processes which can lead to suicide.

While suicide remains a significant issue for Maori communities, ‘He ara toiora’ offers insight to hopeful pathways for taitamariki, their whānau and communities.

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