Warning - the following story talks about mental health and suicide.
Wahine Toa Hunting is a movement created by Pania Te-Paiho Marsh, who teaches women to hunt, gather and feed their whānau using their own two hands.
But Marsh has taken on another role – that of an aunty to the avalanche of rangatahi who have reached out to her via social media with cries for help, often in the middle of the night. They are lost, afraid, and often suicidal.
Marsh (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāi Tai, Tūhoe) says her mahi in helping rangatahi began with organising a teen suicide awareness hīkoi to Parliament in 2019, which included social media star and Terei Tonight host Nix, aka Nicola Adams.
“Two thousand people ended up there on the day. We took [the kids] to parliament, they got up, they spoke. The mamae that came out that day was just absolutely heartbreaking,” she says.
“The past six months, it’s really snowballed. I’m getting as many as four children in one night messaging me. It needs to be addressed more now.”
Marsh says she feels “very privileged” to be trusted by the rangatahi that come to her for help to deal with their problems, even as being someone that they don’t know personally.
'The door is always open'
“A lot of them can’t quite verbalise what’s going on. Your mind is like a cloud and you know you need help. So when they trust and come to me, some of them are cutting, some of them are suicidal. Some of them just need an ear.
“I think a lot of it is when they see me, they see a lot of themselves. The door is always open and it’s non-judgmental.”
Helping rangatahi has definitely taken its toll on her too, with Marsh saying that “some of the weight is really heavy”. But she continues to help where she can.
“If we look at it existentially as Māori, all those kids are all of our kids. We are parents, aunties, nans to all of these kids.”
If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance please visit www.mentalhealth.org.nz or contact any of the organisations listed below.
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Samaritans – 0800 726 666