By itself that is an innocuous number. But when I tell you that is how many people took their own lives in the past year in New Zealand it has a lot more meaning.
That is 668 people that thought that they couldn’t carry on.
That is 668 people that thought they couldn’t ask for help.
This is also a number that has been increasing over the past four years. We are now at an all-time high of suicides within New Zealand. Pretty sobering isn’t it?
I have been there. I know exactly what it is like to be on that precipice thinking that I couldn’t carry on and wanted to end the pain. Thankfully I didn’t. I have also seen first-hand what suicide can do to a family when friend of mine took his life. I am now here to share my story and am wanting to make conversations around mental health, especially for males, as easy as having a chat about the weather. Yes, I know it is a big goal and it will take time to break the stigma that is still around mental health in New Zealand, but something must be done.
I look at my young son and want him to grow up in a world where sticking your hand up and saying I am not okay is seen as a sign of being strong and not as a weakness as it currently is. We, as a society, must get rid of the whole toughen up, she’ll be right mentality because it just isn’t working. Personally, I think the way we begin to make it easier for those in need to speak up is by looking out for those around us. Family, friends, team mates, neighbour’s and work colleagues are a great place to start and if you notice something is wrong with them trust your instincts and have a conversation. An Are you OK? chat can save a life. I should know it saved mine.
I will always remember the day. It was the day I hit rock bottom. That day was the 13th of March 2010. It was my mother’s birthday. Things had been piling on top of me for some months and I was at breaking point. I had been putting on a show to those around me and they didn’t know the internal turmoil that I was going through. I was at a point where I thought I was a burden to everyone and that suicide would stop the pain that I was putting my family through. My are you OK? question came from my brother. It may not sound like much, but it is all that it took for me to stop and think and realise that, in fact, no I am not okay. It is a simple question, but it is also a powerful one.
Yes, the 10th of March was the day I hit rock bottom, but I look back now and can say it is also the day that my new life started. I had come to the realisation that I was not well and needed help. The hardest part of my journey back to being mentally well again was to take that first step and actually ask for help. Us blokes are great at the whole harden up and she’ll be right attitude but that is an archaic way of thinking. It is no good to anyone especially someone who is in the grips of depression. I went to counselling and from those conversations and opening up I was able to pick up the tools to help me deal with the ups and downs that life throws at us.
It was also around this point that a childhood hero of mine had begun speaking about his lifelong battle with depression and how physical activity helps him with his mental well-being. So, I thought if it worked for an All Black great then surely it could work for me. I brought a pair of trainers and I took up running. And you know what? I started to feel alive again. I know there is science about what was going on but to me it was simple I had found something that I was passionate about. I can honestly say that being physically active has helped me get to the person I am today.
I have learnt a lot about myself over my journey with the most important thing being that we must look inward and be brave enough to say that I am not okay when things are tough. It was the hardest thing for me to do and I won’t be in the minority when I say that this is what I struggled with the most. We find it easy to fix other people but when it comes to ourselves we don’t want to be seen as being weak by asking for help. If we can make conversations around our mental well-being part of everyday life we will be making it so much easier for those to speak up and say I am not okay. The team at LIVIN are doing an amazing job at making this a reality and I look forward to seeing them continue the awesome work.
For more on Craig’s story, click here, to check out his video.
If you are struggling and need to speak to someone, visit our Get Help Page for organisations who can help.