War hero Willie Apiata, VC, held youngsters spellbound at Tauranga YMCA during a powhiri yesterday to raise awareness for youth suicide.

Mr Apiata, a Westpac ambassador, met all 30 people at the morning event, chatting and laughing to the teenagers.

The powhiri was held to launch the YMCA's suicide awareness programme, where youth would go to TECT part to participate in bonding activities.

Youth guarantee member Lake Brown said meeting Mr Apiata had been incredible, and was glad the war hero had attended to raise awareness of youth suicide.


"It felt awesome to even shake his hand."

He said youth needed guidance, role models and support to help them through tough times.

Another teenager said he was excited to meet the VC winner.

"It's an honour."

YMCA Tauranga general manager Calum Davie spoke about the importance of discussion and support around suicide.

"No one is too big to talk," he said.

YMCA acting national CEO Arama Ngapo-Lipscombe said having a decorated war hero at the event was "a fantastic opportunity".

"He's a humble man. He shows it doesn't matter where you're from, he's achieved amazing things."

YMCA Tauranga board of trustees member Paula Baker said it was amazing to see the interactions between the youth and Mr Apiata.

"Just watching Willie and how enthralled they were with him, just completely absorbed."

Westpac director of corporate affairs Sue Foley, who brought Mr Apiata to the powhiri, said he attended because raising awareness around youth suicide "completely fits in with what Willie's passionate about".

Ms Foley believed speaking up about youth suicide was an important issue and "a conversation needing to happen in New Zealand".

Further information about suicide prevention can be found at www.mentalhealth.org.nz/suicideprevention
Where to go for help:

- Lifeline - 0800 543 354

- Depression Helpline (8am to 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 talk@youthline.co.nz

- 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)

- www.depression.org.nz - includes The Journal online help service

- www.thelowdown.co.nz - visit the website, email team@thelowdown.co.nz 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.