WARNING: This article is about suicide and mental health issues and may be distressing for some readers.
Broadcaster Greg Boyed was planning to quit TVNZ for a new role at the National Business Review as he sought a fresh start away from night work.
Friends say Boyed had hit "rock bottom" after first losing the presenter's role on TVNZ show Q+A and then being overlooked to front Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme.
Boyed died suddenly on August 20 while holidaying with his wife, Caroline Chevin, and their 3-year-old son, Kian, in Switzerland.
As grieving continues for the much-loved broadcaster, some of those closest to him talked over the past month to the Weekend Herald about the emotional pain he battled in his final weeks, including the toll a series of career blows took on the 1 NEWS Tonight anchor.
Close friend and former colleague Niva Retimanu – a newsreader at Newstalk ZB – told the Weekend Herald that Boyed hit rock bottom after losing the Q+A role. She believed that pain grew after missing out on the Checkpoint job.
"These people are in the limelight. They are earning big money and it is high-performance. If you don't perform or you are out of favour, that's it," Retimanu said.
"Greg had been applying for jobs outside TVNZ. NBR was one of them and he went for Checkpoint too. I think everything got on top of him. He got himself in such a bad state, even asking for help wasn't an option."
Todd Scott, publisher of NBR, confirmed Boyed was due to start with the publication when he returned from Switzerland. The 48-year-old was to head up the NBR TV unit.
"He was going to be working 6 hours a day five days a week. He was going to do that as well as reading news untill the end of the year. What he was really excited about was coming on full-time to NBR next year so he could have a normal life and not work nights anymore.
"I was totally devastated when I heard about Greg. I knew he was struggling. I don't think he had any idea about the love and the following he had.
"The week before Greg went, he said 'Toddy, you know it's all well and good for John Kirwan to raise the profile of depression but when you are in that really dark place, you don't want to talk to people about it'."
One of his colleagues at TVNZ said management was aware of Boyed's fragile state and offered him professional support.
"People breaking down in workplaces is becoming more and more of a thing," she said.
"There is a bigger issue of how we treat people and how much responsibility there is on management. I mean there is a reality as a presenter that you are hot, then you are cold.
"You are always being judged and you are as good as your ratings and focus groups. The thing to be careful about is not to tie your self-esteem in what you do."
In a statement from TVNZ, a spokeswoman said they would not comment on specific staff members' employment and were determined to respect the privacy of Boyed's family.
However, she reiterated the network supported its staff.
"Our people's health and wellness is a focus for TVNZ at all times, now especially. Greg's death has profoundly affected our team. We're grieving. We've extended the wellbeing support we offer our people to reflect there's a greater need as we go through this sad time together."
Boyed performed a number of roles over the years at TVNZ, including newsreading on various bulletins as well as fronting Seven Sharp alongside Alison Mau and Jesse Mulligan when it launched in 2013.
TVNZ had been originally wooing former Breakfast host Paul Henry for the role but he declined.
Boyed eventually accepted the position on the proviso he could leave if things didn't pan out. After a seven-month stint Boyed returned to 1 News Tonight. "He felt frustrated and disillusioned," said a friend.
Another ex-Seven Sharp colleague said Boyed had provided strong support for her when she felt undermined working on the programme.
He would often comfort her and would tell her: "Don't let the talentless c***s get you down".
"Greg was a friendly person in an environment I found hostile," she said.
"One day he was coming down the escalator of Death Star (TVNZ's nickname among some staffers) and I was wearing a T-shirt with a snake painted on it. He said hi, saw my shirt and cracked up laughing, saying that's perfect for this environment."
To viewers, it appeared Boyed had everything - a successful broadcasting career fronting the late night news, a beautiful wife and two children he adored.
But the smiling facade that dragged in viewers while fronting 1 NEWS Tonight – plus earlier stints in front of the camera on Q+A, 1 News at 6, Close Up and Seven Sharp – masked his depression.
His family said in a statement released after his death that he was "battling depression".
The Ministry of Heath says it is vital that everyone – individuals, families, whānau, communities, employers, the media and government agencies – work together to promote protective factors and reduce risk factors known to influence suicide.
"No single initiative or organisation can prevent suicide on its own," it says.
Retimanu first met Boyed more than 20 years ago when they were both rookie radio newsreaders. They instantly "connected".
"One of the main things was me being Samoan and Greg being part-Maori," she said. "He was my Maori brother, I was his Samoan sister. We had this unique sense of humour and this 'brown' connection."
The pair had ongoing swearing competitions off air to see who could be the most vile. It was their way of unwinding.
"We had to always perform and not mispronounce words. So we made up our own silly language. A typical Greg text would be 'Fakapoopoo alamuta boomshuka laka', which was 'You wanna coffee today?'," said Retimanu.
"Greg was a perfectionist but he was a prankster too. While I was reading the news he'd walk past and pull faces at me. He loved using the C word. Off-air we would be un-PC and silly. There were no holds barred - we laughed until we cried".
Despite being such a public figure, Boyed was deeply private and shied away from attention. Retimanu said Boyed "hated" the limelight.
She loved Boyed's down-to-earth unassuming personality. He often turned down MC gigs "because he would say I'm too embarrassed. I hate that s***," she said.
"He would never say do you know who I am? He hated it when other people used to say it - that says a lot about Greg," she said.
"One time we were visiting our friend Mike Francis at the hospice, the nurses saw Greg and said 'we know you'. But never ever did Greg say he was on TV, he would just say, I've just got one of those familiar faces."
But Boyed was one of several high-profile Kiwis who supported Step Forward, an initiative to help bring an end to mental illness discrimination.
A TVNZ colleague observed that people in the industry can be insecure because they are constantly being judged.
"You are only as good as the last thing you did. I think the reason he touched so many people is that Greg came through the screen. You felt you were getting someone genuine, warm, and witty. He was himself."
Another broadcaster said: "The whole country is judging you, if you had a bad night everyone knows. It is so public - your rises and falls. We don't seek the limelight – the limelight comes with the job. You don't ask for the adoration, it's just part of the deal."
Boyed was born in Te Puke, one of three children. He started his journalism and broadcasting career in radio in Tauranga in 1991 and eventually moved to IRN in Wellington and then Auckland.
Most recently the 48-year-old filled in as Drive host on Newstalk ZB. ZB is owned by NZME, publisher of the NZ Herald.
He was one of three original hosts of Seven Sharp, alongside Jesse Mulligan and Ali Mau, when the show was conceived in 2013. He was also the first to leave, later that year, returning to late-night television to anchor 1 NEWS Tonight.
His broadcasting CV also includes TV shows Target, Fair Go, Flipside and The Last Word.
Away from the camera he was a talented musician and an accomplished marathon runner.
Boyed was previously engaged to fellow news presenter Amanda Gillies.
He married singer Caroline Chevin in 2014, after a whirlwind romance and in secrecy, in her hometown in Switzerland. Their son Kian was born the following year. Boyed has a daughter Sarah, 21, from his first marriage.
Chevin – who is well-known in Europe and has previously played alongside Bryan Adams - met Boyed through a mutual friend at dinner.
"Caroline is a beautiful woman with a lovely personality," Retimanu said.
"They were so happy, they connected and they were in love."
Retimanu met with Boyed for a coffee the day before he left for Europe.
"He seemed different," she said.
"He hugged me really close . . . too close. He held for about three seconds longer. That was his way of saying 'Goodbye'.
"On Father's Day I thought of his kids - straight away. I had a wee tear and thought Greg will never get to walk down the aisle with Sarah and he's never going to take Kian's hand and walk him to school."
Retimanu – who has also suffered from depression - urged anyone who is going through depression to ask for "help".
"We don't want lose another life because they couldn't ask for help."
Three weeks ago Boyed was farewelled at a private service in Pyes Pa, near Tauranga, by loved ones – including family, friends and a select group of broadcasting colleagues. Chevin and Kian remain in Switzerland.
Eric Young gave a heartfelt eulogy, followed by Renee Wright reading a poem. Boyed's siblings Shane and Keryl spoke at the gathering, along with his first wife Stephanie Carr.
They played a song that Greg and Sarah had written and recorded together- Hold Back the River.
After the ceremony, Stacey and Scotty Morrison performed a poroporoaki as the car carrying Boyed's coffin was driven away. Friends and family released red balloons into the sky.
A private service was held for colleagues at TVNZ last week. Boyed's mother Jean and his sister attended.
Everyone has a part to play in prevention
Every year about 500 people in New Zealand take their own lives, with many more attempting suicide or experiencing levels of distress that places them at high risk of suicide.
The Ministry of Health says many factors influence a person's decision to attempt suicide. In New Zealand there are a variety of suicide prevention initiatives aimed at promoting protective factors and reducing risk factors for suicide, and improving the services available for people in distress.
The Ministry says it is vital that everyone – individuals, families, whānau, communities, employers, the media and government agencies – work together to promote protective factors and reduce risk factors known to influence suicide.
"No single initiative or organisation can prevent suicide on its own," it says.
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:
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland (24/7)
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (24/7)
• SAMARITANS – 0800 726 666
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.