Katarina’s story – Mai i ora ki te kaha

Doctor Katarina Simon is a second doctoral candidate and a full time, single parent carer of three adult sons, two of whom are tangata whai ora with high complex needs including schizophrenia, drug and alcohol addiction, Type 1 diabetes and post-traumatic stress.

Katarina says the burden on families due to members afflicted by mental illness is well known, but this particularly increases demands on single parents who are already disadvantaged and marginalised. Extra challenges for her whanau have included no wider family, friends or social network involvement.


“Not having adult company for hours on end, then weeks, months and years, takes a huge toll mentally and psychologically. I was always on guard, continually stressed and in panic mode. We were poverty stricken and under resourced.

“Surviving day to day without perks, adequate rest or sleep, exercise or holiday breaks causes your health to deteriorate and mood to go down. All in all, if you’ve survived this world you’ve come through a battlefield.”

Currently in the process of writing a thesis titled ‘Chronic mental health, modernisation, and historical trauma - a plan for research with Maori’, Katarina says she is drawing on whanau case study research of her own family’s eight year, journey from complete breakdown to advanced recovery.

“It was from going to hell and back that the true worth of Birthright came to light. Having progressed quite significantly now, on the verge of social re-integration, I decided to use this avenue as my first public writing piece since falling apart and going to ground.

“We were very fortunate to get a range of Birthright services over time: support groups, holiday programs, parenting courses, free food, special discounts, home visits, grants/scholarships and counselling, to name a few.”

Katarina says a major issue for her was getting housing. Her family had to move 25 times in 5 years, and became homeless twice.

“It’s not rocket science, just basic human decency that could have made it easier for a single parent whanau like mine. With Birthright at my side I was able to combat loneliness with socialisation. They lifted me up by acknowledging my parenting skill base and instilled hope in never straying from a positive and proactive approach.

“As a long standing solo mum client, on behalf of my three sons and I, it is my utmost pleasure to pay tribute to Birthright New Zealand. Thank you so much for everything you do for single parent families. Please know your efforts are very important and change lives. Congratulations on reaching sixty years of enduring excellence!”

If you would like to help more parents like Katarina please donate now