Today is Suicide Prevention Day. In the 12 months to the end of June 41 people committed suicide in Northland - the highest total ever - and today a Whangārei family featuring in a new movie on the issue talk about their experiences after their son's suicide.

When Sam and Gina Albert from Taiharuru were approached by the Ngāti Hine Health Trust to take part in a movie about their experience with their son's suicide, although it was raw, they jumped right in.

They both felt that it was time to be open and talk about what they'd been through.

With the careful guidance from clinical psychologist and filmmaker Paora Te Oti Takarangi Joseph, the Alberts say they were able to start the healing process by talking about their experience with the four other families the film documented on their journey from each marae to Te Reinga Wairua to say goodbye to their loved ones.


Read more: Confrontational film to screen as part of NZ international film festival
Movie review: Maui's Hook
MTG: NZ International Film Festival quick to pull crowd

"As far as I'm concerned if you don't talk about it, it just eats you up inside and we thought that if we could get on board with other whanau that had been through it, we could talk about it," said Sam.

Just months before their son died the Albert's knew of five other young people who had taken their lives. When their son died they were at their breaking point and thought 'enough is enough'.

Sam said that Paora and everyone involved in the film showed so much respect and aroha, that it gave him the ability to heal and forgive.

"I said in the film to start the healing process I had to forgive myself. I didn't believe that I was a good father because my son took his life. I had to forgive my son for what he did.
That's where my healing started through forgiving myself and my son."

Gina said that she normally is not one to show her grief because she doesn't like to unload on people, but by taking part in the movie she was able to focus on herself and heal.

"As a mum, we take care of everyone else. We don't take care of ourselves. In the process of Maui's Hook, being catered to, not having to cook and just those simple things, I had nothing to worry about. I looked at myself and that journey was healing for me. That was a blessing for me that I came away from it lighter and spiritually renewed."

One of the most difficult parts of the movie for the couple to watch was when their daughter unveiled some of her experiences with her brother, which they hadn't known of until filming. Gina said that although it broke her heart it enabled her to see what her daughter had been carrying.


"I just wanted to hold her and take all her pain and tell her how brave she was for even telling us that. They caught that moment on film and it just broke me. You can't hide anything on the big screen. I think whoever watches it is going to see that pain and the love at that moment."

Paora said he felt especially connected to the Albert's because of their raw honesty in the film.

"They're absolutely direct, vulnerable and totally open. It's that type of honesty that truly affects people. It's not all your prescribed psychological paradigms or methodology or that sort of thing. It's not saying that you have all the answers, but in your vulnerability and in your honesty the answers come flowing forth from that."

The film has sold out throughout the North Island and successfully lead on conversations about suicide which Paora says is because the audience feels they have a safe environment to talk about the issue.

Gina feels strongly that suicide is not always really talked about openly and just hidden under the carpet.

"We've got to give our children an environment to talk about anything, good or bad and not be judged. If they are thinking about it, they need to talk to us about it. We also need to allow them to grieve, but not glorify it – because that's what I see a lot of."

Maui's Hook is on at Event Cinemas in Whangārei today from 11am, tomorrow from 11.10am and 6.10pm and at 3.15pom on Wednesday. It is also on at Anzac Theatre, Dargaville, at 1pm today. There are also free community screenings on September 21 at Ngunguru Marae; September 22 at Te Rerenga Paoroa Marae, and October 31 at Te Ahu in Kaitaia.

Need to talk? 1737 – free call or text any time to talk to a trained counsellor
•Lifeline's 24-hour telephone counselling service on 0800 543 354
•Depression Helpline (8am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757
•Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
•Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email
•Healthline – 0800 611 116
•Samaritans – 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.