Sui­ci­dal thoughts ‘woke me up’ — Jono

Whanga¯ rei man shares in­sights he’s gained from 10 years of men­tal ill­ness

Whangarei Report - - HISTORY -

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”.

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