Shoe Project en route to Welling­ton

Rotorua Review - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - STAFF REPORTER

‘‘My son was a father, a son, a part­ner, a role model and when he died the rip­ple went through­out our com­mu­nity.’’

Te Atapo Huri­wai, of Ngati Pikiao, lost her son Trevor on Oc­to­ber 23, 2015, a week af­ter his 27th birth­day.

He was a go­ing through a hard time, and was in cus­to­dial re­mand when he took his own life.

Huri­wai was a star rugby player and Mixed Mar­tial Art fighter be­fore his de­te­ri­o­rat­ing men­tal health drove him off course.

When he was in­car­cer­ated he was di­ag­nosed with Schizophre­nia. Huri­wai said her son should have been kept in the psy­chi­atric unit but was only kept there for one night be­fore be­ing sent to the gen­eral re­mand unit.

‘‘I knew my son would not last long in­side, es­pe­cially in re­mand which is renowned for be­ing the hard­est part,’’ she said.

Atapo spoke at an sui­cide pre­ven­tion event in Ro­torua where 606 pairs of shoes were laid out to rep­re­sent all those lost to sui­cide in the past year.

‘‘My son was a father, a son, a part­ner, a role model and when he died the rip­ple went through­out our com­mu­nity.’’

Huri­wai wants to be­lieve that her son sac­ri­ficed him­self for some­thing, and is bat­tling for more trans­parency and in­volve­ment of fam­i­lies in the men­tal health sys­tem.

‘‘My son’s death could have been pre­vented.

‘‘I am speak­ing out for those who can’t. So other fam­i­lies don’t have the same thing hap­pen to them,’’ she said.

Re­cently re­leased fig­ures re­veal 606 Ki­wis took their own lives in the 2016-17 year, up from 579 the previous year.

Men and Maori fea­ture well above the na­tional av­er­age, with the sui­cide ra­tio of three men to one woman. Sim­i­lar events are hap­pen­ing across the coun­try to high­light what is be­ing called a ‘‘men­tal health cri­sis’’.

The shoes will be taken to Par­lia­ment on Septem­ber 10, In­ter­na­tional Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion day.

Be­reaved fam­i­lies are chal­leng­ing po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers to meet with them on Septem­ber 11.

Be­reaved mother, Jane Stevens, is trav­el­ling across the North Is­land with the 606 shoes and says an in­de­pen­dent men­tal health in­quiry is es­sen­tial so ev­ery­one’s voices can be heard.

‘‘We all need to come to­gether and take a hard and frank look at our sui­cide epi­demic.’’

SUP­PLIED

Te Atapo Huri­wai spoke about the loss of her son who she lost just a week af­ter his 27th birth­day.

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