A sea of yellow under a sky of blue. Hope.

More than 200 people gathered in Memorial Park in central Tauranga on Saturday for the city's annual Hope Walk.

The event was about bringing greater awareness around the issue of suicide and about promoting its prevention.

Bronwyn Harris, 59, said she had been to all three Hope walks in Tauranga, the first of which was in 2017.

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"I'm taking part because I've lost two loved ones to suicide – a sister and a husband," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

Harris said a lot of people are affected by suicide in New Zealand and awareness is growing.

She said her focus was to get more men to talk about it.

"If they could only talk more."

Bronwyn Harris was taking part in her third Hope Walk, and was accompanied this time by Lulu the pooch. Photo / George Novak
Bronwyn Harris was taking part in her third Hope Walk, and was accompanied this time by Lulu the pooch. Photo / George Novak

The 3.8km walking route stretched from Memorial Park, alongside Tauranga Harbour, to Marine Park in Sulphur Point.

Almost all of the walkers – as well as a few of their dogs – were wearing yellow T-shirts and other clothing; there were yellow balloons, banners, and photos of loved ones being carried along.

Why yellow? It is the international colour for suicide awareness.

Anita Trappitt and Digby the dog, both in yellow T-shirts. Photo / George Novak
Anita Trappitt and Digby the dog, both in yellow T-shirts. Photo / George Novak

Before the group – which was made up of all ages, from the very young to those less nimble – set off, several people shared their stories over a loudspeaker.

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Hope Walk organiser Riria Gibbons said that was all about giving people an opportunity to talk about their journey.

"And that's inspiring more whānau to build up the courage to share their journeys as well," she said.

"If you look around you're seeing little groups of whānau that are coming together for this cause. And that's really what it's about. It's about normalising these conversations about suicide."

Gibbons said it was "very beautiful" to see people stand up and talk, because people do find themselves tiptoeing around the subject and around those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

The Hope Walk was about bringing it out into the open, she said, to provide healing and to instil confidence.

Organiser Riria Gibbons talking to those gathered before the Hope Walk began. Photo / George Novak
Organiser Riria Gibbons talking to those gathered before the Hope Walk began. Photo / George Novak

And the event was not only for people with personal stories of loss and tragedy.

Friends Katie Corbett, 30, and Rebecca Dodd, 29, were there to show support.

"I just think it's a good cause, I haven't had anyone close to me commit suicide," Corbett said.

"As you get older you realise more about it as well. Like, my dad has got a lot of mental health issues and I didn't see that when I was younger and now I do and I just want to support it a bit more."

Dodd said: "Mental health is really important and that's something that we, at our age, understand … I guess things are getting harder as life goes on."

Friends Katie Corbett (left) and Rebecca Dodd were at the event to show support. Photo / George Novak
Friends Katie Corbett (left) and Rebecca Dodd were at the event to show support. Photo / George Novak

As Tauranga's third-annual Hope Walk set off, with the spring sunshine warming the sea of yellow against a chilly breeze, white doves were released ahead of them.

The birds of peace flew up, up towards the sky of blue.


Post-Suicide Support Groups:
Tauranga: Waves After Suicide Programme
Call Denise, 578 4480 or support@griefsupport.org.nz.
Waihi support group: 1st Saturday of each month. Text or phone Karin 021 103 7404. Email: riverlight62@gmail.com

WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• https://www.lifeline.org.nz/services/suicide-crisis-helpline
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202