Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Dads support bereaved families in mountaintop commemoration

Lights for Life on Auckland's Mt Eden this morning. Photo / Craig Rohloff
Lights for Life on Auckland's Mt Eden this morning. Photo / Craig Rohloff

A group of Kiwi fathers joined families who have lost loved ones to suicide in an emotional torch-lit "lights for lives" commemoration on Auckland's Mangere Mountain yesterday morning.

The Kiwi Daddys Facebook group, founded in March by two Kiwi fathers in Australia but now listing almost 57,000 members mainly on this side of the Tasman, supported the event because of the high number of men in the suicide statistics.

Coroner's statistics show that 428 males and 136 females took their own lives in the year to June last year.

Pastor Joseph Fa'afiu of The Gate Church in Papakura organised the "lights for lives" events at 5am today on 38 mountaintops from the Kaitaia lookout to the Flagstaff Summit in Dunedin, plus hills in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

He and his wife Lydia lost a close friend, a mother of three who committed suicide six years ago.

He said most of the 100 people on Mangere Mountain and about 60 at One Tree Hill, where he and his wife were based, raised their hands when they were asked who had lost close family members or friends to suicide.

"The amazing thing is that people just stood back saying it was such a safe environment for them. They felt safe," he said.

"They looked around and realised that the struggle they go through was not by themselves.

"When you talk to people who have lost people to suicide, the power is very different. No one understands that unless they have lost a person to suicide. So having that place that people came together brought them strength to be okay about it and to have a moment."

On One Tree Hill, the event started with karakia leading into a minute's silence as the group looked out to lights on other mountains in the distance.

On Mangere Mountain, the Kiwi Daddys group showed solidarity to encourage men who were suffering to talk to others about it.

"The message we had out at Mangere was that it's time to talk, not to hold the feelings and emotions in, but to be able to discuss it with other men and be open about it," Fa'afiu said.

"It was a very good moment for a lot of men because there was a lot of solidarity and strength in actually sharing."

Former Tagata Pasifika presenter Tom Natoealofa, a father of four and committee member for the Auckland Kiwi Daddys group, said men opened up on the group's Facebook page about things they never used to talk about face to face.

"They talk about everything from depression to family violence, all the issues that face men as fathers," he said.

"Especially as Pacific Islanders, suicide is almost like a taboo subject. You are either ashamed that a family member has committed suicide or even attempted it, so just talking about it is a massive step.

"What we are noticing is that before the action actually happens, men are opening up to say that that's how they are feeling. They really feel angry and they are actually crying out with it, and then the support of all of us online to encourage them to really think about who it is affecting - I know it's working."

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- NZ Herald

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