The widow of Northland doctor Richard Harding, who took his life in 2017, has spoken of her grief over his death and is urging whānau to confront suicide.
Harding, an anaesthetist at Whangārei Hospital, died by suicide on October 23, 2017 at his Tamaterau home.
"At no point did I think he would actually do anything like this," Kate Harding, also a doctor, said.
"I think it was a failure of imagination on my part. Despite my work as a GP and hospice doctor for over 20 years, it was inconceivable to me that my own husband might ever do something like this.
"I regret that so bitterly, there's just something about being a wife rather than a doctor, it is so hard to be objective. I misread the situation and couldn't see how high a risk he posed."
Coroner Katharine Greig found Harding's death "highlighted a constellation of factors that likely played a role in his decision to take his life, many of which were associated with his work".
In the report, Greig said that was not meant as a criticism of his role at Whangārei Hospital but rather an observation of the "systemic environment" in which
anaesthetists and intensivists - critical care doctors - work.
Richard Harding was 47 when he died. He had spent 25 years working in the health sector after growing up and training in England.
After stints in Perth and Dunedin, Richard, Kate and their children Amy and Jake - aged 16 and 14 at the time - settled in Northland in 2016 and worked for the region's DHB.
Having moved from England to New Zealand under the cloud of a complaint - from which he was eventually fully exonerated - Richard's stress levels peaked, to the point where he started taking antidepressants.
With the help of medication, Richard slowly recovered and the pills became no longer necessary. However, after a battle with insomnia, Richard went back onto medication in the winter of 2017.
This time, his medication did little to improve his mood and in the weeks before his death, his illness took a serious hold - despite his best efforts to exercise, eat well, and maintain his health.
Despite an urgent appointment with a psychiatrist three days later, Richard was found by Kate at home on October 23, having taken his own life.
After the coroner's report release, Kate spoke exclusively to the Northern Advocate from England, saying the pain of her husband's death was still fresh three years on.
"I miss Richard all the time and I can burst into tears at the drop of a hat about him," she said.
"I feel that had he made it to that psychiatric appointment, he would have felt in safe hands and I'm sure his medication would have been changed... but of course, you can't torture yourself with 'what ifs'."
Soon after Richard's death, the family returned to England and to the support of friends and whānau - despite her love of Northland life.
"Had it just been me, I would not have rushed back. I would have taken more time over the decision. I love New Zealand, I loved our life by the sea, and I was surrounded by a wonderful community of close friends.
"However, my children were certain that they needed to return to their roots, and it was clear to me that this was essential to help them start to heal from this devastating loss."
It has been a long road for the family missing a beloved husband and father. Kate, 51, remembered the early weeks back in England, sleeping on a single mattress in a friend's attic bedroom as the family secured more permanent accommodation and returned to school and work.
Kate described the family's constant sense of disbelief being reduced from four to three, and that their life back in England had to be rebuilt almost from scratch, without the central presence of Richard.
Both children struggled, physically and mentally, as a result of the shocking loss of their much-loved father, to whom both had been close.
However, the family successfully settled back in the city of Hereford, with the help of friends and family. Kate works at St Michael's Hospice and both children continued their studies.
Kate has a new partner, Simon, and remains a keen dog lover, hiker and cyclist. Amy studies fine art at university while Jake plans to follow in his parents' footsteps and pursue a career in medicine.
Nevertheless, Kate still holds regrets three years on. Despite knowing her husband's struggles, she admits she couldn't clearly see quite how dire Richard's mental health problems had become.
Through tears, Kate explained she did not blame Richard for his actions and knew she shouldn't blame herself. However, she was unsure whether she would ever make peace with what happened.
"There was more that I wish that I had done but equally, I know that Richard felt very loved by me and by the children, and I am so grateful for the happy family life we managed to have for many years."
From her tragic experience, Kate said she now understood the real need for whānau to address suicide with transparency.
Although she considered Richard fairly open about his mental health, Kate said men in particular needed to be actively confronted about suicide to ensure they did not suffer in silence.
"[Richard] was open up to a point, but he didn't find it easy to express exactly what he was feeling and why," she said.
"My biggest mistake was not being more open in asking him about any suicidal thoughts he might be having. I think I didn't want to think about the possibility of something so horrific befalling someone I loved so much.
"I was supportive and loving towards him but I failed to ask the specific questions that may have saved his life. That's something I will always deeply regret, even as I continue to rebuild my life and support my children in carrying on with theirs."
Northland DHB chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain said Richard's value as a clinician and person was missed dearly.
"A lasting memory is [Richard's] infectious laugh that could be heard frequently in the theatre corridor," he said.
"He had a real zest for life and was highly regarded by his colleagues as the go-to person for advice and reassurance on clinical matters."
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
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.