A suicide prevention refuge is on a mission to raise $42,000 to hire a new community support worker.

The Taranaki Retreat fields more than 120 inquiries each month from people in need and now desperately needs a new worker to keep up with the demand, says retreat co-ordinator Jamie Allen.

"This is a huge indication of the challenges people are facing but it's really cool they have the courage to speak up."

Rural people of all ages make up a large percentage of those asking for help, including people from Stratford and all around the mountain.


"It's been a hideous year for people living in rural areas and access to services can be poor. There is also a sense of isolation - but nobody is alone in any of this - and that's our key kaupapa."

A crowdfunding campaign has been set up through PledgeMe to raise the money, but pledges will only be confirmed if the full amount is made by April 9.

Around $17,000 has been pledged so far.

"Crowdfunding campaigns are awkward things because it's all or nothing — if you don't cross the line you get nothing but that's the gamble you take."

Jamie and his wife Suzy sold their house in 2013 and bought a "beautiful paddock" in the countryside near Omata and built the residential facility with support from community funders, businesses, volunteers and a "commited" Trust Board.

The couple were strongly driven to help others.

"We'd been through tragedy ourselves and had a deep empathy after going through a really challenging time in our life. We also knew of a number of whanau going through suicides and were feeling heartbroken with nowhere to turn to ... You should never be in a place of having nowhere to turn to."

The retreat opened in March 2017 as a charitable trust. It is a place where individuals or whole families can deal with tragedy or life-challenges including people who have been touched by suicide or are dealing with loss or depression.


Some people need time out from their situation at home or to stay with family as part of a healing process and can be supported through counselling.

Jamie says it is essential another community support worker be employed and their role would include visiting people in their homes as well as managing people at the facility and helping them access other services.

He says a good thing about accessing money through PledgeMe was if the amount was raised, they could access it a lot faster than applying for grants. The style of fundraising wasn't new to Jamie who used it over a year ago to finish off a building at the retreat.

"It was awesomely successful — we needed $12,000 to finish the building and we raised $14,000 which meant we could also put some money toward furniture."

The retreat is the first of its kind in new Zealand and was desperately needed at a time when suicide was prevalent due to a number of factors.

"There's certainly some cultural things we are working on to change. A huge thing for men I think is receiving a lot of stigma and bullying around any kind of mental health problems like stress from work and depression. It's difficult for men to reach out and receive help without some sense of stigma and loss of who they are — their male identity."

Jamie says there are a lot of challenges facing teenagers and it was a difficult and painful time to grow up because there was so much pressure which contributed to a rise in anxiety, depression and self harm. Social media also had a damaging effect on teenage relationships.

Jamie says there has been more open conversations around suicide in recent years and it was important that people who have been confided in by those who are struggling dealt with the information in the right way.

To address this, the retreat is holding suicide prevention training on April 30 from 9am at the Devon Hotel, New Plymouth. The training is designed for anyone who wants to be better prepared to support someone dealing with suicidal thoughts and costs $5 to register.

To find out more information visit the Taranaki Retreat Facebook page, www.pledgeme.co.nz, or www.taranakiretreat.org.nz.

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:

* The Taranaki Retreat: 06 2150993
* Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
* Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
* Youthline: 0800 376 633
* Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
* Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
* Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
* Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
* Samaritans 0800 726 666
¦ Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254