Teen mums speak up to help other young parents cope

By Talisa Kupenga

A group of Wellington teen mums is speaking out about the challenges they face through a new short film titled Tumanako.

Released online today they hope the film, part of the Youth Wellbeing Study from Victoria University, will help other young mums in similar situations.

Young mums share their experiences hoping to help build brighter futures for their babies and other teenage mothers.

Helena Wardle, mother to two-year-old Jazzy says, "The most extreme [experiences] were probably suicide, attempting suicide and substance abuse. Mainly just feeling judgement as well not having family support and people not being there for you the way you thought they would be.”

Nakita Kopua, mother to 13-month-old Tai Te-Ariki Kopua-Strongman says, "there are actually a lot of young mums going through similar issues, especially young solo parents that don't get enough support out there."

Ten mums aged between 16 years and 19 years from Tawa's Teen Parenting Unit He Huarahi Tamariki shared their stories with Catherine Pihema for her Master's thesis, which aimed to develop a kaupapa Māori mental health resource for youth.

Pihema says, "They were saying if they had seen this a couple of years ago and they had known maybe they weren't the only person on the planet going through some of these challenges, having some of these thoughts them a lot not to start that downward spiral."

Eighteen-year-old Hinehou Mason says "everyone is judging us but they don't know what we're capable of doing so [the film] has made me stronger and a lot more proud of being a mum."

A key message they want to share is that further education was possible and help and support are available.

Wardle says “You don’t need to feel alone, you aren’t alone and if you look in the right places there are people who want to help.”

Kopua says "having baby and stuff we wouldn't have went back to education but you have something to strive for now and you just have to make sure you get there.”

Mason is now making plans to build a future for her and baby.

“When I found out I was pregnant I was 26 weeks and I had no clue about what I wanted to do and next year I will do my level 3 and UE and I want to study to become a teacher”

Watch Tumanako here: