Advisory: This article mentions suspected suicide and may be distressing to some readers.
Tash Dalley still wonders if her son Blake would have turned to school counsellors for help.
The Mount Maunganui mum, who lost her 13-year-old son to suspected suicide last December, is sharing her story to shed light on the mental health "battles" young people face.
Dalley and her husband Seaton don't want any other family to live through what they have and believes funded counselling support in schools is a step in the right direction to address the problem.
Blake, born in Matamata on July 17, 2007, moved to Mount Maunganui with his family at age 4. He was the middle child among his six other siblings aged from 3 to 19.
Dalley said from early on he was a "very snuggly, cuddly person" in tune with how people were feeling.
He was an "impulsive daredevil with a great big heart" who "liked to see people smiling" - catching his family out regularly with pranks.
"He was the kid with the biggest sense of humour," she said. "He would be out there making a clown of himself for other people's benefit."
He also thrived off adrenaline, which fuelled his love of skateboarding, she said.
"The first time he dropped into the vert ramp - you would have thought he'd won the Lotto.''
As he got older, he spent time teaching young children, including youngest brother Mason, how to skate - which he "adored".
The couple "didn't see warning signs" in the lead-up to Blake's death.
Blake was struggling at intermediate school but Dalley said at home he was the same "silly, bubbly, smiling kid" they had always known.
"Blake had the odd ups and downs and wasn't enjoying school very much - no different to what our other teens went through at that same age. But he was hiding so much more on the inside," she said.
He had never been under the mental health system.
"He was still happy and outgoing. There was nothing that made us think otherwise.
"Leading up to it, apart from doing a couple of mischief things nothing was out of the ordinary.
After Blake's death, they found some "dark stuff" on his phone from about eight weeks earlier.
She also said this was "quite a turnaround" from a few months before, where they had checked his phone and it was filled with skateboarding videos.
"At home, he appeared no different to normal. There was nothing that raised any alarm bells in his behaviour. But when you looked into his phone, we sort of got a gauge of how he was really feeling.
''It broke our hearts how little we knew about what he was feeling and going through."
The couple now believe it was necessary to keep a "very close eye" on the phone and social media content of children.
"I know what it is like being a teenager, the last thing you want is somebody going through your stuff. But if we had seen some of that, we could have maybe tapped into where he was at quicker."
She believed children his age were not "emotionally equipped" to navigate social media and were able to access "way too much information too young".
Dalley still wondered if Blake would have spoken to a school counsellor if one was readily available.
"For whatever reason, Blake felt he couldn't open up to us. I wish this had been an option available to him."
In her view, a counselling service at intermediate school was "vital" to help students easily access a "safe and neutral" environment where they could share their feelings or concerns.
"It's a basic human right to be well. The Government really need to look at where we are heading," she said.
"I realise it's not an easy fix, and it's not fail-proof. But it's a start.
"We desperately need to start looking at providing some sort of fencing at the top of the hill instead of waiting to pick up the broken pieces at the bottom."
In line with Blake's 14th birthday on July 17, the family started a Givealittle page in an effort to raise money for Gumboot Friday.
It raises money to fund counselling for young people in New Zealand.
It was their initial goal to raise $500, asking family members and close friends to donate to the cause. But by the next morning more than $1000 had been donated.
As days passed, the figure continued to increase.
"It was overwhelming. I was literally crying, sitting in the sunroom just watching it [go up]. It just must have resonated. You look at Blake – and it's like he could be anybody's son."
More than 1500 people had donated a total of $75,000 when the fundraiser closed in late September.
"It's bittersweet,'' she said.
"We wish it wasn't Blake that had spurred us on to have to do this – but it is.''
Suspected suicide was a "tough subject" to open up about but the Dalley family had now put it at the forefront.
Other parents had also opened up to the family since Blake's death, expressing concern about the mental health struggles of their own children.
"Not until Blake passed away did we actually realise how much of an issue is out there.
"We had no idea the battles they were going through. It definitely opened our eyes up."
She believed it was important to have the "ugly" and "tough" conversations to help shine a light on mental health issues children were facing.
"They can come and open up about what is going on, and they know we will be there with open arms to support them."
The biggest factor in them "moving forward" was finding the good in each day.
"What has happened has been life-changing and horrific – it's your worst nightmare realised. But as you work through it, you find a strength in yourself you didn't you know had.
"You look at every little day, the good in it, and that's how we have climbed out of that really dark space."
She said keeping Blake an active member of the family was important for their other children – talking about him daily and reflecting on happy memories.
"You have got to remember the life you had with them, instead of the way they passed.
"After losing Blake, our other kids are getting us through each and every day - they truly are our blessings."
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