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September 10, 2018 | by  | in Opinion Te Ao Mārama | [ssba]

Me Kōrero Tātou

The issues of mental health have been increasing in kōrero everyday. People like Mike King, Sir John Kirwan and Tā Willie Apiata have spoken out and raised awareness about the massive impact mental health has on us as young people, especially rangatahi Māori.

I am not famous. I am not an expert on mental health. However, I do have experience as a young Māori woman going through university and struggling with anxiety and depression. Talking about mental health, especially your own experiences, can be overwhelming and daunting. But I have decided to share my story for two reasons:

  1. To continue to normalise talking about mental health and the struggles we face.
  2. So that others who experience mental health issues will know they are never alone in this.

Dealing with mental health issues is incredibly hard to do by yourself. When my depression or anxiety became too difficult to manage, I felt like every little issue was the end of the world. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t belong here. When I was first experiencing depression and anxiety I fooled myself into thinking that these early symptoms (like getting upset at a relatively small issue or having mild panic attacks) would be the worst of it.  But it grew to the point that I was starting to feel so low, I was questioning my place to be here and my self-worth was just plummeting. Imagine this all happening to you when you are still young and under the pressures of university where you are supposed to be setting yourself up for your future. It is unfortunate that this is the reality for many of us rangatahi Māori. Yet a lot us don’t know that we are not alone in this struggle. Talking about what we are going through has to be the most important step in getting better. Trust me, if you don’t talk about your struggle or ask for help, it can lead to negative consequences and make things worse for you.

It took me a very long time to even accept the possibility that what I was experiencing was depression and anxiety. I had little to zero knowledge about mental health issues and so I had no idea what I was going through. I wasn’t aware that anxiety for me was a sudden feeling of nervousness and shakiness, with my heart pounding through my chest. I was constantly worrying about something wrong happening to me. I also was unaware that when I was feeling lonely and worthless, constantly tired from spending hours at night crying and being scared to face the new day – that was depression. I would turn on my bed, try going back to sleep and feel incredibly lost. I had no drive or motivation to have goals and achieve anything. This dark feeling was starting to takeover me, and I lacked the desire to fight it. I would go through this for days and weeks straight because I was keeping it all to myself, still blindly hoping I could make it go away. Then it got to the point where I could feel my hinengaro, wairua and tinana all falling apart. Despite it all, I still struggled to open up because of the possibility of being a disappointment to whānau and friends.

However, I eventually realised my pride and worries were preventing me from getting better. I accepted that speaking up and asking for help was okay and in fact what I needed to do to get back on the right path to feeling happier and confident in myself again. It turns out opening up was the best thing that I did for myself. Since I started talking about my mental health issues and asking for help I have been able to turn the tables and take back the reigns on how I go about my days.

For anyone reading this who have may have experienced or currently experiencing similar feelings to what I have described I have one request from you. If you need to talk, please do! Whether it’s to your friend, whanau or a medical professional. Making the decision to open up about your problems is the hardest but vital part. Remember we are not in this alone, all we need to do is kōrero.

Nā Danielle Sword

Muaūpoko, Ngai Tahu, Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai


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