TV

'Now I can help my mum': The Bachelorette NZ's Tavita Karika opens up about his mum's mental health struggles

''She struggles with like the simplest [of] things like just trying to leave the house,'' Tavita said.

By Karyn Henger
The Bachelorette's Tavita Karika has broken down in tears talking about his mother's struggles with her mental health.
On Wednesday night's episode of the reality TV dating show the Timaru-based personal trainer shared that his mother can feel overwhelmed by "the simplest of things" like leaving the house. He said he was grateful to be able to help her, now that he is back in New Zealand. Tavita moved back to Timaru from Australia in December last year.
The revelation came in an unexpected and moving scene just a few minutes into the episode, and served to show viewers just how close the men have become throughout filming.
Tavita had been taking part in a 'gratitude circle' - another surprise for viewers - initiated by Liam Cochrane.
While Liam began by saying how grateful he was to be in the mansion with such a great bunch of guys, Marc then shared that he was grateful for his beautiful, healthy baby girl.
Tavita followed, saying he was grateful for now being in a position "where I can help my mum out because she suffers from a lot of mental illnesses".
"So now it's like I'm actually in the same country as her so I can actually provide as opposed to not being there for her when she needs me the most," he said.
Clearly distressed and wiping away tears, he continued, "It's a struggle because I'm not around her and I know that she struggles with like the simplest [of] things like just trying to leave the house, because you're not there."
Speaking afterwards on the phone to Now To Love, Tavita explained that his mother, Rachel, suffers from intrusive thoughts, "where you have a thought and it's a really negative thought, like 'kick the dog' but you don't act on it."
"It's borderline voices in your head, from what I understand of Mum's experience," Tavita says. "We also think she may be borderline schitzophrenic and bipolar."
He said he has tried to get a more conclusive diagnosis: "Her last proper episode we took her to a place called Kensington but she interviews well - like a job interview, you know. I say to her 'Mum, you need to go in there and be honest' and she says 'but if I'm brutally honest they 'll send me away'."
Tavita has witnessed his mum's mental health struggles since he was eight years old and says it's been heartbreaking to watch her unable to even get out of bed some days. When he was living in Australia she would sometimes tell him she didn't want to live any more.
"It's really hard to hear that, especially when it's someone you love so dearly.
"Since I've been back she's been so positive and her behaviour has changed. I'm living with her and caring for her... I say caring but it's more a companionship and I give her silly little tasks to do to give her some focus each day."
"I wasn't in the best mental space to help mum before," he confesses. "I thought things had to happen and they had to happen now, but now I've got plenty of time."
On the show Tavita admitted that he hadn't expected to "open up like that".
"But at the same time I actually feel pretty good that I'm around a bunch of boys that actually do care... it's really nice to feel that."
He told Now To Love, "I've felt quite comfortable with those boys. I'm not afraid to open up to a bunch of fellas and be judged, you feel welcome. It's a vulnerable thing but you also feel very comfortable. And the more we talk about mental health the more it's normalised. People realise they're not alone."
Perhaps one of the most endearing aspects of this dating show is the number of tender moments we've witnessed between some of the men.
Marc was quick to offer Tavita a hug after he talked about his mum and was clearly moved, saying, "I just wanted to give him a hug."
The other men in the room showed sensitivity and respect.
Along with the paintball wars and shows of testosterone these Kiwi men are definitely up for allowing others to see them as vulnerable too, and the more mental health becomes a part of everyday conversation the more hope we have of being able to support those who suffer from mental illnesses.