Urgent action needed to address Māori depression - NZAC

The New Zealand Association of Councellors (NZAC) says urgent action is needed to address depression in Māori.

A study conducted by an Auckland university measured 15,800 participants' non-specific psychological distress. Results showed Māori were 7.5 per cent more likely to have a high-risk score in the survey than pākehā at 4.5 per cent.

NZAC's Te Ahi Kaa Gay Puketapu-Andrews says the grim reality of Māori depression should make people want to take action. 

“We have known Māori are more vulnerable to some mental health issues for a long time.  This can be largely attributed to many Māori suffering from an inter-generational trauma that has been the result of colonisation.

Unfortunately, there are barriers to tangata whenua finding useful and culturally responsive help, as well as a lack of Kaupapa Māori service provision, which is often what is most valuable.

So, while we might not be able to immediately remove those barriers, we can promote the importance of ensuring that Kaupapa Māori services be more readily available.”

Ms Puketapu-Andrews says the Association can lead the counselling profession in developing and supporting Māori practices, which will benefit the mental well-being of tangata whenua.

“Firstly, we are providing the platform to grow and develop our Māori membership.

This ensures the cultural identity of Māori who seek help are met, because cultural identity is a fundamental issue in terms of Māori mental health.”

She says other organisations should follow suit and play a role in supporting and developing Māori mental health practitioners and service providers to enable more opportunities for Māori to access counselling.

“The people who understand the issues affecting the mental health of tangata whenua the most are the Māori counsellors and mental health providers.

“That’s why it’s important people access help and services that are culturally responsive to their needs and heritage.”