Beyond the Beehive: Mental Health

In Hastings, Zack Makoare works in suicide prevention. He runs the Te Taitimu Trust, which organises events for
rangatahi on the east coast. Zach was inspired to set up the trust after his teenage son,
Kelly, took his life, eighteen years ago, today. – My wife and I were freezing workers. We didn’t have the
knowledge to understand what pain looked like. So in 2007, we decided
we would open up a trust – the Te Taitimu Trust – and that was really to develop our capacity as a
whānau to support others. Zack’s Te Taitimu Trust, encourages rangatahi to be
open about their feelings. Some of the issues, I think it’s really about us
being able to teach our kids how to deal with their emotions. In the old days, thirty years
ago, it was the old story – harden up, move on. We’re not teaching them how
to deal with their emotions, I know one of those, I know
that person, I was that person. But, you know, if I was coached
on how to deal with things like anger and violence, I probably wouldn’t have been that person. The government
says it will spend hundreds of millions of dollars
on mental health services, and has already expanded a programme that places mental health
nurses in high schools and launched a pilot to make
mental health care free for eighteen to twenty-five year olds. Other than that, little new
money has been committed yet. Instead, the government
is waiting on the results of its mental health inquiry, which has been running all year. It’s a major focus because New Zealand has one of
the highest suicide rates in the developed world. Zack says it doesn’t have to be that way. Just rocking up and saying, ‘Here’s a prescription,
go away, this will help.’ You’ve gotta have more of a
personal approach, you know. Yeah, I think it’s in our culture, it’s a cultural thing for
us Kiwis, Māori, Kiwis. You know, the ‘harden up’ scenario. We talk really well about
how we play a rugby game. A few beers, we’ve scored three tries now, there’s so many more people
dropped off the tackles that they tried to make on us. So we talk about how well we do things, but we don’t really talk about things that aren’t going well in our lives. If we can talk about our
triumphs, that’s awesome, but if we could teach our kids and our families how to talk
about the burdens in life, that would really really help. Southanders have a reputation
for being deeply stoic. We’ve travelled to Invercargill to meet counsellor Caroline Loo, to find out if that’s actually the case and hear how she thinks the government can best support the region. Caroline’s Loss and Grief Centre provides mental health counselling. The centre came about because we went through
our own personal tragedy, with our daughter, Sara, dying and I went through some
really deep, significant grief and went looking for help and a lot of the help
that was offered was at quite a clinical level and
I knew I didn’t need that, I needed someone I could talk to and so, through a process
of four or five years, this idea was birthed, from the community, that this is what would make a difference, and for me, I knew it
would make a difference. Obviously, people have
made a conscious decision to come here and to speak
to you and to open up, but at the same time, do
you find that Southanders can find it difficult
talking about their emotions and feelings? Yeah, lots of people said
to me, before we started this, nobody will come, but
I knew that I would’ve. I might’ve walked up and down
the street, maybe ten times, before I got the confidence to come in, but I knew that at the
breaking point that I was at, I needed someone to
talk to, who understood. So, although that might
be what people say, that’s actually not my reality and it’s not what we’ve experienced here. In the first few weeks, I could not believe how many
people came through the door, some people just being
nosy, which was fine, but people were like, they had waited and they’d bottled stuff up
for years and they came in and they had forty-five
minute conversation and they went out and things were better. This year alone, we’ve
had over two thousand requests for support or inquiries or people walk through the door. Caroline introduced
us to Lindsay Wright, a fourth generation farmer, who now works for Southland Rural Support. After twenty-four years running
a farm, Lindsay gave it up during a painful period of his life. All of a sudden in 2001/02, everything just came really, really good, prices of lamb
had gone up, you know, good lambs were getting close
to a hundred dollars a lamb and it was just the best job ever and what I hadn’t realised was just that, the prices had gotten way
above the average gain line for prices. And within four years, I found
myself sitting in my truck, in a black hole, in the
middle of a paddock, wondering what on earth to do, because the prices started
coming back and back and back and as well as that, I had kids going to high
school and things like that, I just couldn’t make ends meet. Did you consider yourself depressed? Because of the stigma, I think, that goes around
the word ‘depression,’ I felt that, I didn’t think I was and I can remember consciously
trying to justify to myself that I wasn’t and in my head
I can remember thinking, ‘Am I depressed?’ I don’t think I am because I’m a moderately
intelligent sort of person and I’m sitting here thinking about whether I’m depressed or
not, and if I’m having that kind of rational
conversation with myself, then I can’t be depressed,
so therefore I’m not and all of that was just
an excuse for me to try and prove to myself that
there was nothing wrong, when really there was. That day that I came to a stop in the middle of the paddock, I just knew I had to talk
to somebody about it. So I ended up ringing a
counsellor and got an appointment, fortunately I managed
to get in the next day, and just because I’d done that, I kinda felt that I was back in control because I was doing something about it. I walked into that
counselling room, sat down feeling pretty clever
about what I was doing and the counsellor just said to me, ‘So, you’ve got some problems?’ and I said… and that’s as far as I got, I didn’t even get the
‘yes’ out, and I just broke, because that was the first time
ever I’d said to anybody, ‘I’ve got some problems that I just don’t know how to deal with,’ and all the time up to
that people would say, ‘How you going?’ ‘Good,’ and
you just end up lying and I couldn’t stand lying
anymore and saying I was good, so I started saying to
people, ‘I’m battling on.’ Zack, Lindsay and Caroline, all talk about encouraging
people to open up and making sure there’s someone to listen. So, has the government listened this year, and what does Caroline hope it’s heard? From a policy level, a
government that understands that mental health is an ongoing priority and it’s not a short term fix, so to make sure there are
parameters that don’t just think that after a year, we would’ve
solved all the problems. On a logistical, on the down
on earth, here with me level, I think all the early
intervention services like the Southern Rural Trust, like us, that actually have to work
hard to seek for funding, should be given some injection of funding.

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