Suicidal thoughts ‘woke me up’ — Jono
Whanga¯ rei man shares insights he’s gained from 10 years of mental illness
There are many horror stories about mental health and a Whanga¯ rei man wants people to know there is also hope and healing — or if healing is too hard to grasp, then learning how to handle “the unwellness”.
Jono can see light at the end of the tunnel of mental illness he's lived in for at least 10 years and he wanted to share his story during Mental Health Week.
Even though Jono, who preferred his surname not be used, now understands he'd suffered depression possibly since childhood, he didn't realise how bad things were until that tunnel closed around him.
“I've been diagnosed with depression since I was 20. I started the medication then.
“I was working. I'd studied for a diploma in environmental management at Northtec, then got a job as a digger driver here in Whanga¯ rei.”
Jono bought a block of bush northeast of Whanga¯ rei, dreaming of living a life as environmentally sustainable as possible while working at a job he enjoyed.
He hopped across the Tasman a couple of times but couldn't settle. An underlying “down“took the shine off most things, but Jono kept on driving right on through.
He became “chronically suicidal” — something often on his mind, but never attempted to kill himself.
“It was the suicidal thoughts that woke me up. I was living in Auckland when I got really unwell and I was like that for three or four years,” he said. “In 2009 I started my recovery.”
That meant staying in Dargaville to get help from community-based mental health service provider Arataki Ministries, which also offers services in Whanga¯ rei and Maungatu¯ roto. He returned to Whanga¯ rei.
“I had a good nurse in Dargaville, and have another good nurse over here. I've got my medication sorted,” Jono said. He speaks articulately and with insight about his situation. His illness wasn't compounded by drugs or alcohol.
What he's struggled to get over, though, was the financial mess he got into.
“The worst, the thing that hurt the most, was because of my unwellness I went bankrupt. My place was sold. Words can't describe it. It's not a good feeling.”
Jono isn't back at work yet. He knows he has to build up more resilience before he tackles that mountain. “It's about being realistic, recognising the hurdles.”
But he has his eye on the prize.
“I know what I want.” There'll be another block of land out there for him. Meanwhile, he continues to learn, he says.
The Government's Mental Health and
Addiction Inquiry team was in Whanga¯ rei in June to get views on the country's mental health services and identify unmet needs.
“I'm grateful that I went,” Jono said. “I didn't voice my own opinion but I listened to other people. There was a common thread, and that was how hard it was to get help.
“It's made me aware of how strong you've got to be at a time when it's the hardest for you to be that.
“On my journey it's not that I didn't get help, it's just that it's hard to be in the system, although you do need just the basics [care] just to get by. I tell people who need help, you need to be in the system.
“On the whole, I haven't got a bad word to say about anyone who works in that field. But we need to change the stigma, change attitudes, take away that prejudice.
“Even though people like John Kirwan and Mike King speak out, the problem is still being swept under the carpet.”
And if Jono could say one thing only to someone who needed help?
“Stay strong, eh!”
Jono says stay well is e “about being realistic, recognising the hurdles”.