Film demands Govt action on maternal suicide

A screenshot from the film. Supplied photo.

Exposing New Zealand's shameful maternal suicide and perinatal depression statistics is the aim of a short film launched today in Parliament by a group of experts demanding policy change.

The short film Who Holds Our Mothers? has been created by Mothers Matter founder Chloe Wright and a New Zealand Canadian-based filmmaker Moonshine Films, on behalf of the campaign group of experts and health professionals who includes Chloe Wright ONZM, Dame Lesley Max, Nathan Wallis, Dr Anil Sharma and Tracy Macfarlane.

The hard-hitting dramatisation of the silent and lonely struggles of having a baby, pre and post-birth, brings the stark realities of maternal suicide and perinatal depression to light.

New Zealand has a maternal suicide rate five times higher per capita than the United Kingdom (PMMRC Annual Report 2019), and one of the worst postnatal depression, family abuse and child homicide records in the world (UNICEF).

Postnatal depression affects up to 15 per cent of mothers with lack of support recorded as a factor (

Mothers Matter members have tried repeatedly to meet with various Government Ministers for more than three years, but despite their pleas have never been granted a meeting or an opportunity to talk.

The film was launched at a breakfast event at Parliament today, with speakers including science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, wellness advocate Gemma McCaw, paediatrician Dr Johan Morreau, trustee of Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa (PADA) Joanne Rama, and midwife Tish Taihia.

Politicians, and experts and stakeholders from across the perinatal health sector attended the event that demanded Government pay attention to this crisis.

'Enough is enough,” says Mothers Matter Founder Chloe Wright.

'Our mothers can't wait any longer for the care they so desperately need.

'Mothers already have a right to at least 48 hours of postnatal care but are often not receiving it because of overloaded hospital maternity units.

'There are constant headlines for all to see of code - red alerts in our maternity units across the country, not to mention the documented poor treatment of birthing mothers during this Covid-19 period.

'What will it take for the Government to listen to us and the many voices on our social media channels? How many deaths? How much mental trauma?”

Only Government can make the changes needed to protect the health and wellbeing of pregnant and new mums, through policy and legislation so urgently needed, says Dame Lesley Max.

'We are calling for equitable perinatal care across New Zealand via a targeted ring-fenced fund that is determined by the mother's choice about the care she needs and receives.

'This should include funding for obstetrician-gynaecological health checks, pre-birth and post-birth, with wraparound services to meet her needs and those of her whānau. High obstetric risk women should be directed to appropriate facilities.

'If we're serious about making intergenerational change in maternity care in our country, we must start at the beginning and look after our mothers. The scientific research into the first 1000 days of a child's life and its impact on the rest of their life is irrefutable.”

People will be able to get involved by ‘Raising the Red Flag' by wearing a badge in the shape of the campaign's red flag, sharing red flag graphics on Facebook, or writing to your local MP.

People can find out more on the Mothers Matter website


Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757

Gambling Helpline - 0800 654 655

Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email

0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at

Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

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