Content advisory: Please note this article includes references to mental health and suicide.
It has been nice to see the medals start rolling in at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and congratulations to our first gold medallists rowers Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, who is from Raetihi.
But I must admit I have found this Olympic Games quite underwhelming and difficult to get into. You have got to feel for the competitors having no fans or crowds to bring that vibrant energy to the mix.
The Covid-19 restrictions in Tokyo are important, but without the crowds the opening ceremony was lacklustre and some of the events feel boring too.
Far from boring though, was the announcement that US superstar gymnast Simone Biles has withdrawn from the all-around and women's team events in Tokyo to focus on her mental health.
That takes guts and must have been a hugely difficult decision. Biles was not be able to defend her Olympic title, but I commend her for her bravery and strength in putting her health first.
Most of us find it hard to even acknowledge anything about our mental health, let alone expose ourselves like that on the world stage in one of the most competitive environments.
Millennials like Simone and me cop a lot of flak for liking avocado on toast and apparently being "entitled" but we are probably the first generation that actually talks about our mental health.
In the past few years, more of us are starting conversations about mental health and building the courage to raise our own hands and say that we are struggling.
We need to shake the stigma because the more we talk about it, the more we normalise it, and the more likely people will be to speak up and seek help - before it is too late.
And that is where a lot of my anguish has come from this past week. The mental health system in Aotearoa cannot cope with the level of demand and it is failing us.
It was only a few months ago that I went through one of the worst mental health breakdowns I have faced, and I took urgent leave from work for a fortnight.
I put it down to a combination of life's normal stressors building up, but I ended up suffering with constant nerves, regular panic attacks, low self-esteem, paranoia and crying at the drop of a pin.
When I went to see a doctor, I was an utter mess. I bawled my eyes out the whole time and rambled about the things on my plate – desperate for some guidance and help.
With no assessment, I was told that anti-anxiety medication would not be suitable and before I knew it my allocated time slot with the doctor was up and I was told to come back the next week.
At no point did I feel suicidal, but it was a tough few days, and I was eager for my next appointment. I was told it would be an emergency slot and I would get 45 minutes this time to get into it.
I was weeping in the waiting room again when the doctor called me in. I would have spoken to her for five minutes before she told me she had booked me in to see someone else and asked if I could wait around for another hour for the next appointment. The tears were still wet on my cheek. I walked out embarrassed and waited.
The next nurse encouraged me to work on my breathing exercises and to find solutions to the everyday stressors in my life – book the appointment with a broker, organise this and that.
It was the same advice I got less than two months earlier when I started noticing a problem and I went in asking for tools to cope with stress.
Back then they offered counselling, but there were no Māori counsellors in the region, so I left it. That clearly did not turn out well.
I am glad that I managed to pull through that dark period without the support of the mental health system but so many people are not so lucky.
Since my last column, I know of three people suspected to have taken their own lives. It has been troubling me to no end and I am feeling angry that the system has failed them and their families.
They go to hospital at crisis point and get sent home. They are told there are no beds. They are told to come back later. They are told they will be okay.
Last year, a woman I knew well was sent home from hospital the same day she tried to commit suicide. It was the second time she had tried in a matter of months. The third time she died as the result of a suspected suicide.
This is a critical problem with around 15,000 people each year turning up at emergency departments in a similar way, experiencing a mental health crisis or at risk of suicide.
I remember how pleased I was with the Government's Wellbeing Budget of 2019 that invested $1.1 billion in spending on mental health initiatives over five years.
But the situation has become worse, and the government is not dishing out enough of that cash fast enough. Health Minister Andrew Little has put it down to hold-ups caused by Covid-19.
But try telling that to the families who have lost a loved one to suicide. I can name three suspected cases this month.
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...• 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