Carving school to help with youth mental wellbeing during lockdown

By Tumamao Harawira

Kereama Pene has attended three funerals of young people in recent months.

Now he is running a carving school in Ihumātao, Auckland, to provide rangatahi with a place to learn to carve and deal with their mental health issues.

"This is about love for our families. Come and have a talk, and do some carving."

"Youth in South Auckland are dying, and I have become tired of it, so that's why this is here to teach carving."

A study of Ministry of Health data has shown that Covid-19 lockdowns significantly increased mental distress in New Zealand children.

The study, published in the International Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, shows attempted suicides in New Zealand children aged 10-14 years increased from a baseline of 40 a month to a peak of 90 a month following the lockdowns in 2020.

Rangatahi 'doing it tough'

In November, Health Minister Andrew Little announced $5.6 million in extra funding for mental health and addiction services in Auckland.

Māhera Maihi of Mā te Huruhuru Trust says rangatahi are doing it tough.

"Lockdown has been terrible. We're on day 95 of lockdown, and that's 95 days of people being at home within their families that aren't conducive for what they need to learn. They're struggling with it."

She says using mātauranga Māori to connect with struggling youth has untold benefits.

"I think the mātauranga Māori aspect is very important, especially as urban Māori because we have been disconnected from our home for so long, and coming back to carving and coming back to a traditional whakairo practice, they can regain identity."