August 14, 2000 will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of Kelly Makoare's parents and whānau.

He was just 15-years-old when he committed suicide.

And while the pain will never leave Zack and Georgina, they have channelled their grief into offering support and help to those, who too are going through difficult times.

It is this, which has seen the Flaxmere-based Te Taitimu Trust go from strength to strength, since forming in 2007 - bringing hundreds of rangatahi; rangatahi Māori, rangatahi Pasifika back to life.


"I think the secret for us as a family, as opposed to grieving for our son, was actually doing something about it to support others in that area of grief and helplessness," Makoare said.

The softly spoken father remembers his son as a "bright eyed and sociable boy who was really loved by his community". Although, if he could change anything, Makoare says he would have taken the opportunity to talk about his son's feelings.

It is this which Makoare believes is the key to preventing suicides.

"Our community needs to be mobilised to support one another, and young people needed to be taught to talk about, and manage, their feelings. We need better for our grandchildren and I think our son would be very proud knowing that we've done that."

Te Taitimu Trust – Turning the Tide - has since developed learning programmes for 150 youth and has developed a network of young mentors to help run the camps in conjunction with the Department of Conservation, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, NZ Police, Water Safety NZ, and Otago University's Department of Physical Education

Makoare will speak in Belgium next month at the 17 annual European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour - an important step to understanding what other countries do. He has been sponsored by mental health campaigner, Mike King, Ngāti Kahungunu, Unison and Te Rau Matatini and will be joined by his wife and a trustee.

"The opportunity to explore, listen to, talk about and to engage with notions of suicide at this particular level, will be of immense benefit to me and the work that I am committed to."

"There will be significant opportunities to explore this phenomena from a scientific perspective, a clinical perspective, a cultural perspective, digital innovation perspective and many other contexts that impact on us here in Aotearoa. It is my intention to share our indigenous [Māori] story and make connections to other peoples; minorities, indigenous and the oppressed."

Their model of health is based on Professor Mason Durie's te whare tapa wha model of health. "For our people we are purely focused on wellness as opposed to unwellness and utilising our environment, like the sea and bush as part of therapy."

Te Taitimu's first camp was in 2007. "It was just about being there for the young ones and we realised therapy is Tangaroa – the sea itself. I reckon a lot of our kids who are in depression need to be spending time at the beach, spending time in the sun, in the wind. These are the interventions we should be doing."

Prior to heading overseas, he will be speaking at this year's LifeKeepers Award. Last year, he was recognised with the Supreme National LifeKeepers Award for Suicide Prevention.

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• 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)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.