Kōrerobro - Raising awareness around Māori male suicide

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Dozens of Māori across the country are joining a movement that seeks to raise awareness around suicide prevention among Māori males.

"Kōrerobro is a Māori/kiwi male suicide prevention kaupapa with the purpose of having our men speak up about life's challenges with their brothers around them.  Our mission is to have every kiwi male believe that it’s never too weak to speak and get help," says advocate Benjamin Armstrong (Ngati Hine/Waikato).

According to the Ministry of Health the latest census shows that Māori males are twice as likely to take their own life as non-Māori males.

Luke Fleming (Ngāti Apa), kaiawhina and student advisor at Wintech, says that one of the contributing factors to the statistics is the overall feeling of not living up to expectations within the parameters of Māori culture. 

"We come from a beautiful and rich culture ... so not being able to live up to being tough and strong as men ... makes individuals feel short, and when all those pressures come onto people then they just don"t feel adequate."

Luke Fleming (40) and Livi Hirawani (17) believe that talking about feeling within the māori community needs to be seen as more of a normal and natural activity.

Although the official launch is not yet underway, Ben Armstrong has already had positive experiences with the movement in his dealings with friends, near and far.

"Since sharing the Kōrerobro movement with some good friends I haven’t spoken to in a while, they've came out of their comfort zones, telling me about the struggles they ... were going through and how our kōrero and this kaupapa helped them gain confidence to speak up and get help from the right people," says Armstrong. 

In the past month alone, there have been dozens of short clips of people who have joined the movement, sending general messages of love and support to anyone viewing that is in need emotional support.

"Just wanna let you know bro, I love you, I'm here for you.  Don't be a tough guy bro speak up, I'm not gonna judge you ..." says 16-year-old Livi Hirawani (Tainui) in one such message.

It is acknowledged that women are also susceptible to suicide attempts, however, Armstrong's focus on men is fuelled by the overwhelming statistics.

"We have focused on Māori/kiwi males at the moment because 75% of suicides in NZ are male.  We are passionate about helping our own bros stay around and look after their whānau ... we for sure have full intentions to bring a female lens into our kaupapa when the time is right, but for now we invite our mana wahine to support and push their males to join the movement and speak up," says Armstrong.

The official Kōrerobro launch is on the 31st of August.