We wanted to showcase people who have successfully faced battles with suicide and wider mental health issues to let others know there is hope.

New Zealand has the second worst suicide rate among those aged 25 and under in the developed world. It has the worst suicide rate among those aged 15-19. The number of young people killing themselves has remained largely unchanged for about two decades. The series aims to encourage young people to talk; to know there's hope; to know help is available. And we want to start a national conversation about what New Zealand is doing about the issue - and whether it's enough.

The portraits were taken by Herald visual journalist Mike Scott.

Joe Paulo shares his story

Kiwi Joe Paulo opens up about overcoming a battle with depression. Photo / Mike Scott
Kiwi Joe Paulo opens up about overcoming a battle with depression. Photo / Mike Scott

"March 17, 2016, was the day I decided it was time to clock out indefinitely. I wanted to deregister, sign out, close up shop, deactivate my existence, resign from my dreams, disappear from the planet and never be heard from again.

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"I had a complete total meltdown. Nothing and no one mattered anymore.

"My mind was so low in the valley that it was only a matter of time. I was super angry, I started drinking every night to numb the pain because I just couldn't sleep. I feared the future not knowing what it was now going to look like.

"My depression became an annoyance, my marriage felt like it was on the rocks. My career felt like it was sure to crash and my friends turned on me. No one wanted to understand me.

"It was my manager, Tim, who I thought at the time wanted to get rid of me, that pulled me out of my emotional drowning. He said the very words I needed to hear after desperately trying to call me: 'You matter to me.'

"I was lucky to have a colleague and friend who recognised the signs and sprang into action. She did what many others are too afraid to do, she took action. Had it not been for these two, I wouldn't be here.

"Fast-forward 18 months and I have a personal trainer, Blake Hinton, who committed to seeing me winning in life by using boxing as a medium. My marriage has healed; I have an improved relationship with my family and a strong network of people around me.

"Today I use my journey to help raise awareness for mental health with my first corporate fight in June this year for prostate cancer and suicide awareness.

"For those of you stuck in a dark place. I need you to hear this regardless of whatever negative thoughts or things around you. You matter.

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"I need you so much to embrace this truth. You always matter.

"Get some good friends around you and stick with them no matter what. I know it's hard and daunting but trust me when I say this: It's okay to ask for help."

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 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.