Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Woman talks about impact of husband's suicide

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Megan Gamble speaks about losing her husband to suicide. Photo/George Novak
Megan Gamble speaks about losing her husband to suicide. Photo/George Novak

Shawn Holland left for work on February 15, 2006 and never came home.

The 36-year-old committed suicide in the early hours of that morning.

"He left for work an hour earlier, took his lunch box and all. Then took his own life before work started," said his wife Megan Gamble-Holland.

Ten years on from the day, Ms Gamble-Holland said her husband was showing definite red flags in his behaviour.

"He suffered from social anxiety, did not like to be in crowded rooms, did not like going out. If he did, on the outside he appeared very nervous and quiet but to the point where his hands would shake.

"But we lived our lives around that, I never brought it up, it was just him.

"Shawn was a simple man with simple needs. He was a pretty quiet person, he didn't want people around him like mates."

The two weeks leading up to his death he started really thinking about himself as a provider, as a man, and as a father, she said.

"But I was absolutely stunned, shocked. It felt so surreal."

Only a few months before Shawn's death, his cousin by marriage had taken his own life, she said.

Ms Gamble-Holland said she was extremely hurt by Shawn's actions, leaving her and their two children behind.

Now I am more sad that this beautiful man chose that as a option. I do believe it wasn't planned.
Megan Gamble-Holland

Dylan was 6, while Jaidana was 9 at the time.

"He was massively cool father. You could not fault him with his children and that's sad. He has missed out on his kids.

"The day before, he had gone into town, to Kmart, to purchase some hooks, tackle and weights to take our son for his first fishing trip."

Ms Gamble-Holland suffered from both post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety after her husband's death.

"The friends that you thought you had, you no longer have... Questions are left unanswered.

"I have really had to dig deep and find my own answers and peace. Now I am more sad that this beautiful man chose that as a option. I do believe it wasn't planned.
"Shawn didn't have the skills or communication techniques to open up," she said.

A few months after her husband's death, a friend approached her and said she would be a great social worker.

Read more: Parents' agony over son's change from hardworking man to murdered P cook

Ms Gamble-Holland studied a degree in social work at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Palmerston North.

She then moved to Tauranga where she decided she needed specific grief and loss counselling, and signed up for the services offered by Grief Support Services.

She has since become a board member, organised several memorial days for people who had lost loved ones to suicide and helps facilitate support groups and counselling for Grief Support Services for those affected by suicide.

She is now studying suicide intervention and prevention at Anamata in Whakatane.

"Voices need to be heard. Especially with men and their inability to communicate."

Those suffering from depression benefit from listening ears, she said.

"The non-judgmental listening ear. Trying to gently draw out, without judgment, their story of pain. Or worry, anxiety, or darkness. They will have the words if they are encouraged to express them.

"Just to hear from somebody, 'it's okay, I am here to listen. You are not alone, there are other people that feel like this too,' will help them."

Read more: Homeless woman kicked out of caravan after complaint

"Suicide does not discriminate. Anybody can suffer from that pain. No one is immune."

In the 2014-2015 year, more than 30 people in the Bay of Plenty took their own lives.

Grief Support Services is hosting a memorial for people who have lost loved ones to suicide today, World Suicide Prevention Day.

The memorial service will be held at Olive Tree Cottage in Pyes Pa from 2pm.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said it was a day to raise awareness of suicide prevention.

"Suicide is a complex issue, but it is preventable, and it's important for each of us to know what we can do to help those at risk."

Connection can be key to preventing suicide. Individuals who feel suicidal often feel they lack meaningful connections to others, he said.

"Loneliness is a serious public health issue with a simple solution. You don't need to be a mental health professional to ask someone how they're doing. Anyone can do it - and everyone should. A simple 'kia ora' or 'gidday' can be the start of a conversation that can save a life."

Most people who die by suicide do not want to die - they just want their pain to end or cannot see another way out of their situation, he said.

"Sometimes people just need to feel seen, to know that someone cares. If you're worried about someone, ask them directly.

"That's one of the most important messages we can give to New Zealanders about suicide prevention," Mr Robinson said.

"Don't be afraid to say, 'I'm worried about you. You don't seem like yourself. Are you thinking of suicide?' Listen calmly to their answer without judgment and give them as much time as they need to talk through what they are experiencing."

World Suicide Prevention Day was also a day to remember those we have lost to suicide, he said.


Further information about suicide prevention can be found at

Where to go for help:

- Lifeline - 0800 543 354

- Depression Helpline(8am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757

- Healthline - 0800 611 116

- Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

- Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email

- What's Up (for 5 to 18-year-olds; 1pm to 11pm) - 0800 942 8787

- Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays) - 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline)

- - includes The Journal online help service

- - visit the website, email or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between noon and 12 midnight).

- OUTLine NZ - 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) provides confidential telephone support for sexuality or gender identity issues

- Bay of Plenty Times

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