Forty years ago being openly gay in rural Waikato was almost unheard of. But these days, it's a bit different.

On the streets of rural towns, people say society's perception of gay people is more open, but there is still some prejudice. But do people who aren't heterosexual say?

"I think it is especially hard in the Waikato because we are that blokey rural sort of culture. That farming sports, sort of area," Waikato Queer Youth Senior mentor Logan Cotter says.

As a teenager, Shane Way found himself in a similar situation - growing up in Thames, struggling with his sexuality and fearing discrimination - it all led to depression.

Advertisement

"I was basically just ignoring the fact that I was depressed and just using drugs and alcohol to make myself feel better," Shane says. "Then one night I just cracked. I don't really remember what happened. I just woke up in hospital having to have stitches all over my body."

It got so bad that Shane attempted to take his own life.

"I know people always say your youth and your teenage years are the best of your life, but [my life] prior to twenty - I want to put all of that behind me and literally never remember any of it."

And Shane is not alone.

New Zealand research shows that queer people or those that don't identify as heterosexual are more likely to self-harm and experience mental health problems.

Shane is now 28. He's turned his life around with fitness and support from friends and family.

But he believes adults need to start the conversation about mental health with youth.

"Why are we not sitting down with our children, our tamariki and going 'Okay how are you feeling? Did you know it's okay to feel depressed? Did you know it's okay to be different? Did you know it's okay to be gay?"

Made with funding from