Coronavirus: Rangatahi shares battle getting mental health help while living alone in lockdown

Warning: This story discusses mental health and suicide.

Arapuni Tāne Te Awa Mana is like many others in Auckland who are just trying to get by.

However, when lockdown hit, the 20-year-old found himself battling with his mental health.

"I had some mean suicide thoughts just from when lockdown started. I just remember waking up every day and thinking, 'Bro I hate it, I hate being here, why do I keep waking up?'" 

Auckland has now been within COVID-19 alert level restrictions for three months. Arapuni lives by himself and says being isolated and away from whānau really got to him.

"I've battled with mental health my whole life. I've got PTSD and I've got a lot of anxiety. I have anxiety attacks, but this one was probably the worst and I got diagnosed with depression," he tells The Hui.

By September, Arapuni was at breaking point. His suicide attempt saw him admitted to Middlemore Hospital where he spent a week in a coma.

"I remember the hospital staff saying, 'You've been out, you've been in a coma for over a week and you nearly lost your life four times.'"

Arapuni was then released to a mental health unit for five days but has struggled to find support.

"I got told, 'You're going to have a support team from the mental health team out south, and they'll follow up with you and make a plan.' But I never ever heard from them."

Arapuni Tāne Te Awa Mana.
Arapuni Tāne Te Awa Mana. Photo credit: The Hui

When Arapuni wanted to return to where he was staying in south Auckland, he was forced to find other accommodation.

"Because it was a communal building, the building manager advised me that because Middlemore Hospital was a place of interest for COVID I couldn't come back and I wouldn't be allowed to return until level 2."

He now resides in central Auckland, but says accessing mental health support has been almost impossible.

"I got a call and they said, 'Because you're in central and our teams are based in south, you're out of the boundary line and will refer you to central.' So I waited another week and a bit and I got a call from the central team who just said because I'm only at where I'm staying temporarily they can't help me because I could move, say, back to south and then they'll have the transfer and they would have to start all over again."

Māori mental health expert Maria Baker says stories like these are not unusual.

"The issue for us as a society is that we're told we know the promotion is to seek help. And when you go to help, this is what you get.

"My concern is that as a young Māori man having had early contact with mental health services that he's going to fall through the gaps."

Statistics show a decrease in suspected suicides over the past year but Baker says they may not tell the full story.

"It will be a hidden pandemic of mental health issues, especially among Māori and Pasifika, and especially among the younger group those at Kura and schools and those in younger adult years who are just getting, you know, just getting into their careers." 

Where to find help and support: 

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air. 

Coronavirus: Rangatahi shares battle getting mental health help while living alone in lockdown