A young mum who suffered perinatal depression is sharing her story in the hope it shines a light on the struggles new mothers and pregnant women face, encouraging other wāhine Māori to get the help they need.
It follows a heartbreaking report released this week by the Helen Clark Foundation which revealed suicide as the country’s leading cause of death in pregnancy and for new mums. Wāhine Māori are particularly at risk, three times as likely to die in that way as pākehā.
Tiana Kiro fell pregnant with her first child at 19. She told Te Karere her pregnancy wasn’t planned, and with little support around her at the time, she became depressed.
The idea that she would be discriminated against for becoming another "new mum statistic" left her feeling helpless.
"I felt scared in all honesty, knowing I wasn’t ready for the baby. I knew I was going to get a lot of judgment around my age and being a young mum."
"Being scared is okay, being scared to get help is okay."— Tiana Kiro
Zoe Hawke, chief executive of E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services, an Auckland-based organisation that works to support parents and whānau, said Kiro's experience is common.
"We know that the wellbeing and mental health of our young whānau is challenged daily, and our role in this mahi is to raise awareness so that people know that actually, our young whānau don’t need judgement, they don’t need to be discriminated against, cause sadly they are.
"What we want is more people speaking to this issue so that's our role, wherever we can we will speak to the fact that our society, our legislation, it's all geared up to discriminate and make our young māmā, our young whānau, feel really bad about who they are."
Though Kiro is still learning about her mental health struggles and how to deal with them, she's now in a much better space.
"I know it can be hard, it has stopped me a lot from doing things that I've wanted to do with my baby, especially with my anxiety. Simple things like taking him to the park, taking him for a walk take the life out of me, if anything."
A turning point for her was building up the confidence to ask for help and connecting with a social worker from E Tipu E Rea, who she said changed her life.
"I saw myself as a statistic because I was looking at myself as a statistic and it put me in that mindset of following it.
"Whereas she, she made me understand that it's not going to be easy at any age, no matter, regardless of age."
The organisation helped her to figure out who she was outside of being a māmā, something she had really struggled with.
"I didn’t know what I wanted as a career, I didn't really have hobbies."
She said the support helped ease the societal pressures of being a "perfect mum", something she was fixated on which had severely impacted her mental wellbeing.
"I used to always want to be the best of the best, this perfect mum and as far as I'm concerned, I'm already that."
Kiro is now studying to become a police officer. She and her baby have just moved into their own place, and she's constantly working on her mental health.
She wants all new mums and parents-to-be to know that feeling scared is okay, but that support is there when they’re ready.
"It is scary, I know it is scary, definitely, especially as a first-time mum - but accept the help that's there at the end of the day. Our babies are worth it, and that's who we’re trying to do it for mainly.
"Being scared is okay, being scared to get help is okay."