There are lots of ways to describe not feeling right or feeling like life is going in the wrong direction. This site calls it depression or anxiety. As Māori, these are some of the things we might experience:
Wainuku – when your mood is really low and you feel down in the dumps. When we’re anxious or feel depressed, the waters of our bodies are dragged towards Papatūānuku.
Whakamā – when you feel ashamed or shame about who you are or your situation. Maybe you’re spending a lot of time and energy focussed on being unfairly treated. The whakamā is because of not feeling able to control the situation or feeling like someone is trampling on our mana (prestige) or the mana of our whānau.
Nekeneke – when our thoughts jump from one thing to another and make it hard for us to concentrate.
Whakamomori – the desperate state we can go into when something horrific has happened to us, like losing someone we’re really close to. It might even make us feel like we are cold to touch. People say whakamomori is like being somewhere between life and death.
Not wanting to manaaki (care for others) – everyone’s wellbeing increases when we give to others. For Māori, there is a cultural expectation to manaaki. If we’ve been brought up this way, but aren’t doing it now, it might be a sign that we’re not feeling so great at the moment.
Whakamamae – the experience of emotional pain or distress. This can come from stressful things happening in our lives right now. It can also come from the pain our tipuna have experienced that has been passed down from one generation to the next. For some, whakamamae is also expressed physically.
Whatever words we use, it’s important to recognise that something serious is going on when we have these feelings. It doesn’t look the same for any two people either, no matter who we are or where we come from. You can learn more about the signs of depression and anxiety on this site.
Whakawhanaungatanga is vital for our wellbeing as Māori.
One of the best ways to help your whānau or yourself find a way through depression or anxiety is by keeping in contact. Strong whanaungatanga and relationships help us:
know that we’re valued and loved
get well faster
stay well for longer.
Our relationships with each other are very important. If an important relationship breaks up, or we can’t be with someone we love, that can have a really bad effect on our wairua.
Whānau are usually the first people we go to when things aren’t good. If they can, they will keep supporting us when we're unwell.
Whānau can help by:
letting the person who’s not doing so well kōrero about how they feel
trying to understanding what might be going on for that person
going to the doctor with them
helping them make healthy lifestyle changes
working on some of these self-help ideas with them.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for whānau to tautoko each other like this. If this is the case for you right now, it’s important that you find someone who makes you feel like you belong. If you’re worried about someone else in your whānau or a friend and you don’t think the whānau (yours or theirs) are able to help tautoko them right now, it’s also important to find extra support for yourself so you don’t do this alone.
Who else can help?
However you and your whānau find your way through depression or anxiety, it’s important to remember you are not alone.
If you’re really stuck in a bad place and can’t get through it, don’t feel too whakama to try the Depression Helpline at 0800 111 757. They are trained counsellors who are there to talk you through whatever is going on.
Talking to someone kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face) is a really good option. There are different people who can help you deal with mental health issues - including these Māori health providers. You can also find rongoā Māori healers who use traditional medicine.
Tau mai rā te mauri āio, te mauri aroha, te mauri o ngā mātua tīpuna
Let the essence of peace and calm, of love and our forebears settle on us all - Māori proverb.
Wellbeing & whānau
Traditional healing approaches
Have a look around the rest of this site to learn more about depression/anxiety and what you can do about it.
Tēnā koe. Nau mai, haere mai, whakatau mai, ki tēneipai tukutuku.
Kia ora. My name is Te Kani Kingi. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to this website. You know, a lot of people, including members of their whānau, experience anxiety and depression throughout their lives. This website’s designed to provide you and them with a range of tools and resources to help you all through that process; and at the end of the day, help you all flourish. Remember, you’re not alone.
Ka tū ahau i runga i taku maunga. I rongo nei ahau i te kōrero o taku tupuna: “Unuhia te rito o te harakeke; Kei hea te kōmako e kō? Whakatairangitia rere ki uta, rere ki tai; Nāu i kī mai: He aha kē te mea nui? Māku e kī atu: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!” Tihei ... mauri ora!
The meaning of that is basically, what is the most important thing in this world? It is people and sometimes we forget it is about people. We go through the busyness of our lives I suppose and we forget we are the most important thing about it is people, and it's about looking after ourselves too as well. The karakia will help a person who’s in distress, to give them some help and some hope.
Sometimes when you’re stressed your thoughts are all over the where’s; especially when there is something happening within your family and your whānau. Take a step back, take a deep breath from your gut upwards and have a karakia. That actually calms me down; actually brings all my senses back into focus; it actually puts me in a position of reasoning. This site is here to help restore your hauora, so please take a look around.
When people are experiencing anxiety or depression, we need to make sure that other aspects of the person’s wellbeing are also considered. With Māori we often think of health as being like four walls of a house. Your physical health, mental health, spiritual health and your whānau health are all connected, they’re all linked; and if any one of those four walls fall over, then so does the house.
Most of the time it’s not your GP or health professional you go to; they’re not the first person you speak to – it's actually a whānau member. It might be someone that you’re related to by blood, but it might simply be a work colleague, someone you play sports with, basically just someone you trust and that’s prepared to listen and to help out.
This site is information to help you and your whānau better understand what is happening and what can help.
We come from ancestors who were really clear around where people fit into the environment and therefore our moods and how we relate to that environment is actually really important and that describes how we feel about ourselves. We all know that our body is primarily made of water and they understood that when your spirit is elevated you're in a state of wairangi, or your spirit and the waters in your body are moving towards the heavens.
When the opposite happens and the waters of your body are dragged towards Papatūānuku you become in a state of wainuku. And so when people are deemed to be in a state of depression or anxiety, we then use water to be part of the healing process.
You were nine months in your mothers' womb wrapped in water and naturally you gravitate towards that water for healing. And the other one is the ngahere, the bush. The ngahere is the centre of our universe.
Often we'll take our whānau members around the ngahere, and just walk through and just be at one with Tāne, one with the birds, with the manu so that people are reinstated into the world. 'Cause often when you're anxious and often when you're depressed you're less interested in being part of the world. When somebody goes into the state of depression or the state of wainuku they don't want to talk about it. It's shame. It's actually being ashamed or shame being put upon you. So you either take it on board yourself and become ashamed of your action, and you become ashamed of your whakapapa. But the other way it is used to control you is if I then say to you "Shame! Don't you know your whakapapa?"
You know and I actually place it upon you. It's a lot of our people exist in that state of being ashamed because they feel the shame that's been put upon them for who they are. They tend to hold it in. And the longer they hold it in the...you can find...that...they've started this...you know to start to go down. We always talk about seeking support. And the support comes in many forms. Hei manaaki, hei āwhina i a koe. Ā, ko te tuatahi me kōrero. Me kōrero koe ki tētahi atu tangata - ki tō hoa, ki tō whānau, ki ngā kaumātua rāinī.
Te mea tuarua, haere koe ki te uwhi i a koe ki te wai, mā tērā ka ora mai ai koe, inā pō, haere rapu he kaumātua hei karakia i a koe, kia ruku ai koe ki raro i te wai.
Ā, i tū atu i tēnā ko te mea nui ko te manaaki, ko te tiaki i te whānau i a koe. Ā, kei runga hoki wēnei kōrero katoa, kei runga i te ipurangi...ā...te whārangi ipurangi, ā, e mahia nei e mātou hei tautoko i a koutou. There are several places you can get help from. But the first and most important one is that you can talk about it. To someone else in your whānau, or your friends, or your kaumātua.
Your whānau doesn't have to be your own whānau. You know it doesn't have to be your own mother, father, nanny, or whatever. Some people reconstruct their whānau to suit their environment.
The second thing you can do is start participating in your own self-healing. Sprinkling with water and do karakia and if that is not long lasting then seek out a knowledgeable person who can take you down to the punawai ora and go through the ceremony of cleansing and of going in to the water with karakia and those are easily available types of healing.
The most important thing is to manaaki, to tiaki. To actually take care of yourself and your whānau because you're one of the important components of the whole oranga of your whānau. You the individual are the sum total of all those who've come before you and you only represent them in the present and you have a responsibility for all those who will come after you. The site is here to help you restore your hauora so please take a look around.
I am a firm believer that a traditional approach is very important in the path of healing.
Rather than saying to yourself or being advised that you have depression or anxiety, from a traditional perspective we would say "No, you have a relationship with Uru and a relationship with Haumietiketike because they are our Māori gods that had those characteristics of being depressed or sad, 'pōuri' or being full of anxiety." And when you and your whānau are aware that this distress is impacting on your life and you're looking for ways of healing, it's really important that you know that actually you have some of those gems, some of those taonga within you, and you might not be aware of that. Traditionally, when we were ailing inside, we would go to our grandparents and they'd become part of our healing.
And now we're so disconnected from our families and our ancestors that we have to find ways that help us reconnect.
And actually, moko has been a way that people have been doing that.
A lot of Māori have been coming to me seeking support, seeking moko and they're basically looking for an opportunity to reconnect with their ancestry, and it was there that I kind of discovered that sharing these stories as well as the art form and the culture attached to the art form had a really strong power to heal our people.
Engaging in the art of moko is about reconnecting with your identity and who you are as a person, and who you were.
What we’re doing there is we're reconnecting the people who come to get moko back to their ancestry, back to a source of strength, back to a source of comfort, a source of security. And I can tell you now when that person sits up after entrusting their face into my hands there's only one word that comes to mind from the picture that I see and that's 'free'. They've been liberated.
One of our Māori gods, his name is Whiro. And Whiro is the atua of challenges. And Whiro does anything he can to consume you, and make sure you can't achieve the things you want to achieve. And if we can think about Whiro and the way that he is trying to sabotage our journey we're shaping, then we'll be able to bridge where you are now to where you want to be.
And you might now really not know how to connect with traditional practices and you don't want to move too fast in a space that's too scary for you if you're not connected to traditional practices or you're not connected too much to your whānau, not used to talking to your whānau, then it's about taking small steps and engaging in what's possible, what's available, for you out there.
One of the best healing remedies is in our language. And I wonder whether it at all be possible that we consider shaping your journey by learning the language of your ancestors. And there is so many resources in the community where the teachers will guide you into the rituals and the ceremonies, the tikanga that go alongside te reo. You actually engage in a way of being, and it's slow, but you will feel held when you embark on that journey.
Look around the rest of the website, I know that there are definitely things there that can help you.
Use this form if you’ve got suggestions or questions about this website. Your email will be replied to during office hours. If you need to talk with the Depression Helpline, please use this email form – they’re available 24/7.
This support is only available for people in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Thanks for getting in touch
We will get back to you as soon as we can, but if you need urgent help please contact the Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757.