Fathers tackle suicide
"It's not OK that our children should die this way."
That's the slogan of a newly formed group called Fathers against Suicide.
Arthur Harawira of Kaikohe lost his son to suicide in 1996. He aims to reach out to fathers in pain and to work towards suicide prevention.
"I thought 16 years would be long enough. But you never get over it. There are always answers when someone dies in an accident or from an illness but with suicide you don't get the answers."
Attending a tangi at Kokohuia Marae a few weeks ago for a girl who had committed suicide prompted his move to form a group for fathers, Arthur says.
"I recognised the devastation of the father and I thought about the situation where children get to the stage that they think they don't need to talk."
He believes fathers react in a different way to mothers.
"They are not as able to articulate their sense of loss. I think men experience a different kind of grief."
Arthur talks of his lost son - who was 15 years old at the time he died - with immense pride.
"He was successful in taiaha, patu and poi. He wrote his own haka and was nominated Kaitataki Tane of Auckland Secondary Schools - leader. He wrote poetry and had his own TV show. But he had split from his girlfriend. I noticed he had gone a bit quiet. As soon as he died, I recognised the signs but it was too late."
A father's role has a strong physical aspect, Arthur feels.
"There's the reward of teaching your children how to throw a ball. It's about setting them free when you have taught them how to ride a push-bike. I want to ask fathers to talk about how we raised our own children and the important role that a father plays - and that fathers are still there to catch their kids later in times of pain and loneliness."
Arthur says in past years he has avoided tangi for suicide victims.
"I can't do that any longer. I stand now with all fathers who've lost their children to suicide.
"I want the fathers to tell our stories to those children contemplating this awful act.
"I want all children to hear about our children, how special they were to us. . . .
"I want them all to know that there is a better day coming and that things that seem insurmountable now, we, the fathers, can help work it out.
"I want them all to know that their fathers hold them up so proudly for all the world to see.
"When we throw them in the air, or teach them to walk, or to fish, or to ride a bike, or throw a ball, we're really saying that we love them so much and nothing in the world could make us prouder as a father than in that very moment. We can teach them to get through this too."
Arthur says the formation of this new group will be worthwhile, even if it can save just one family from the pain that suicide brings.
Fathers against Suicide contact 09 405 3403 or 022 062 1840.