Māoridom's leading suicide researchers are at Te Papa this week sharing their latest findings on the link between colonisation and suicide. Joined by other indigenous experts from around the world, researchers are finding similar trends among their own communities overseas.

Indigenous suicide researcher Dr Keri Lawson says colonisation and suicide in New Zealand are linked to historical trauma.

“We cannot separate the broader context of colonisation and the enduring generational historical trauma from current suicide rates, from current deliberate self-harm rates and from any behaviour that imperils the well-being of our whānau, hapū, and iwi.”

According to Lawyer Moana Jackson, there's a similar pattern for indigenous peoples throughout the world,

“The suicide of indigenous peoples in Australia, Canada, and the United States, for example, is proportionately much higher than other groups, and I think it's unwise to try and isolate that from the history which has shaped our people, and particularly, sadly, often the rangatahi who are taking their own lives.”

A widely held belief at the symposium is that a tailored solution aimed at indigenous peoples is the answer.

Shailah Anderson of the Koha Wā Mental Health Project says using storytelling as a tool to fight the scourge of suicide is one example.

“For people to engage in their health properly they need to know the narrative that also helps them to make informed choices.”

Anderson also says through knowledge comes awareness.

“If they know their story, they know what they have, they know what they need, they know their tikanga, they know their kawa, and then hopefully there's a service that aligns with them.”