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Understanding depression

Life's journey has its challenges.

During tough times, it's natural to feel overwhelmed or down. However, with the right support and understanding, these feelings can be navigated, leading to a brighter path ahead.

Sunset scene with a man and a dog on the beach under a tree
Te Whare Tapa Whā

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Connections – maintain, retain positive connections with whānau. Atay active. Keep Te Whare Tapa Whā – all the walls standing strong. You know one of those walls have got cracks in them man, yeah, though. They're gonna fall eventually – all four of those walls eh. If you fellas don’t know Te Whare Tapa Whā, go and check it out it actually helped

Depression is different for everyone. Drawing from models like Te Whare Tapa Whā can help identify areas of your life affected by depression and areas you wish to strengthen. Remember, your journey is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach.

Hinengaro | Emotional health

“Depression for me, when I think about it, it was just this absolute greyness. I could go and do something, and I had this awareness that this was a cool thing that I was doing, but it didn’t feel cool. I couldn’t feel that joy or that happiness.”Watch Hannah's story

Emotions are complex, and understanding them can be challenging. If you recognise any of these feelings, remember to be compassionate towards yourself and consider seeking support.

Things you might notice:

  • Feeling sad or upset and not always knowing why.
  • Feeling hopeless or full of dread.
  • Feeling like others do not understand you.
  • Getting hōhā (frustrated) all the time.
  • Feeling bad about yourself or things you have done.
  • Having thoughts of hurting yourself.
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to be here any more.

Need immediate help? Call 111 or go to your closest emergency department.

Some things to try:

  • Things like karakia, prayers, mantras, mottos, quotes or proverbs are helpful to bring your focus away from these thoughts.
  • Write down how you are feeling – things in your life you are grateful for or goals for the future can help to make sense of your thoughts.
  • Kōrero – with a friend, helpline, community leader or anyone you feel comfortable talking to. You don’t need to share anything you’re not ready to yet.
  • What gets you out of your head for a little while? Try listening to music you love, getting out of the house, helping a friend to run errands.

Small changes lead to bigger changes over time. Some days, just taking a shower or moving from your bed to the couch is enough to make a difference.

Tinana | Physical health

"It was not only emotional or psychological, it was physical." Watch Donna’s story

Physical symptoms can accompany emotional distress. Recognising these signs can help you take proactive steps towards wellbeing.

Things you might notice:

  • Feeling unable to cope with things that used to come easily to you, like showering or brushing your teeth.
  • Not sleeping well for a long time or sleeping a lot more than usual.
  • Feeling exhausted all the time.
  • Using alcohol or drugs more than usual.
  • Losing interest in things you usually like to do.
  • Losing your appetite.
  • Gaining or losing weight unexpectedly.

Some things to try:

  • Get up at the same time every day – having a daily routine can make all the difference.
  • What makes you feel energised? Try listening to loud music, taking a cold shower, eating something spicy.
  • What makes you feel calm? Try making a hot drink, taking a warm bath, dimming the lights.
  • Change the environment around you – open or close curtains, sit outside for a while.
  • Take notice of what you’re eating. Food can be comforting in hard times. Being aware of what you are eating and how it makes you feel can help you find balance.
  • Move your body. Taking a short walk or getting a sweat up can help you feel better.

Wairua | Spiritual health

"We know when our wairua is being nurtured by how people ... if they listen to us, it upholds our mana, which also strengthens our wairua.” – Matua Tau Huirama

Our spiritual wellbeing is deeply connected to our overall health. Finding ways to nurture your spirit can be a source of strength and healing.

Things you might notice:

  • Feeling numb or disconnected.
  • Feeling like you have lost your sense of self.
  • Staying away from your usual sources of strength like your church, iwi, hapū or marae, whānau and friends.
  • Feeling like life has lost its meaning.
  • Feeling empty, lonely, mokemoke.

Some things to try:

  • What makes you feel connected? Try getting out into nature, moving your body, taking deep breaths.
  • You might want to draw on specific cultural or religious practices based on your beliefs such as karakia or prayer.
  • Find something to do that connects you with other people like concerts or church. Spending time at places where people experience collective joy can uplift our own wairua.
  • Try to spend time sitting still and check in with different parts of your body. This can help connect back to yourself if you're feeling disconnected.
Whānau | Social health

“I just completely ignored te ao Māori, I just put it to the side and that’s everything, going to the marae, going to tangihanga, going to birthdays, hanging out with whānau.” Listen to the story

Our connections with others play a vital role in our wellbeing. If you feel isolated or distant from loved ones, consider bringing this up with them. Sometimes, our minds convince us that we should not reach out, but it is important to know that we are worthy of connection.

Things you might notice:

  • Feeling lonely or isolated.
  • Wanting to be left alone.
  • Avoiding the people close to you.
  • Picking fights with whānau and friends.
  • Spending a lot of time alone.
  • Feeling culturally alienated.

Some things to try:

  • Spending time with people who lift you up – doing nothing together, sitting in comfortable silence, cooking a meal, watching a movie or talking about mental health and everything in between.
  • Kōrero – talking about what is going on for you can be hard. The people in your life want to support you, and they may have already noticed you haven’t been yourself recently.

"I ring friends and family. My niece is particularly my main support."Watch Gillian's story
Connecting with whānau

Listen to the full story here

What was really helping was connecting like reconnecting back to whānau, whēnua or kaupapa I just completely ignored Te Ao Maori like, I just put it to the side and that's everything going to the marae, going to tangihanga, are gonna birthdays, hanging out with whānau, doing pou pou karanga hui, doing all sorts of different type of hui at the marae. Like I stopped all that. Like I was like inactive for like 5, 6, 6 years, seven years. I was too embarrassed. I was too whakamā. to whakamā go back because there was nothing I felt like I contributed any more, like and so I stayed away in my little dark hole. I got to the point where I realised like, okay, what am I living for then like? Like what am I up to? Like, if I'm not doing this stuff over here that's supposed to keep me on track on track. Well, there was a whole point of all this life stuff.

Whenua | Connection to land & roots

“Most times being in nature was able to calm me just by listening to the ocean or trees rustling. It has always been a good reset for me and a place I did my loudest crying.” Read the full story

Our connection to the land and our roots can offer solace and grounding during challenging times. Embracing these connections can be a source of healing.

Things you might notice:

  • Spending a lot of time inside.
  • Feeling homesick.
  • Feeling disconnected.
  • Feeling like you don’t belong.

Some things to try:

  • Go to a place that you feel connected to or a favourite place close to you can help to ground you. This could be either physically or visualising it in your mind.
  • Connect with ancestors through learning about your culture, karakia, prayer or speaking to your whānau about people who have passed on.
  • Get outside in nature, take note of the things you can see, hear, smell and touch.
Supporting someone

Supporting a loved one through tough times can be challenging. For guidance on how to be there for someone, check out our support page.

Get help

If you recognise some of these thoughts or feelings in yourself, consider reaching out for support. Remember, you're in control of your journey, and every step towards wellbeing is a step worth taking.

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