'I couldn't save my own son' - father talks of suicide pain

Warena Thompson, 27, right, took his own life in January this year. His father Hemi Te Hemi, left, will speak about the ...

Warena Thompson, 27, right, took his own life in January this year. His father Hemi Te Hemi, left, will speak about the pain of losing his son to suicide at the Waitaha Suicide Prevention Symposium in Christchurch on September 9. Pictured centre is Parehina Thompson, Warena's sister.

Christchurch man Hemi Te Hemi last saw his son, Warena Thompson, while in hospital recovering from a motorbike crash in January.

"We had a great catch up. He ate my lunch."

Thompson left his father and went to visit his sister and new niece. 

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A few hours later, two police officers told Te Hemi his son had taken his own life.

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"I couldn't believe it. He was in the mortuary two levels down from where I was."

Te Hemi will share his experience as one of seven speakers at the Waitaha World Suicide Prevention Day Symposium at Northcity Church in Christchurch on Friday.

Te Hemi said Thompson, 27, had come through a few life challenges, including unemployment, drug abuse and the suicide of a close friend and two cousins.

He was looking for permanent work and Te Hemi had recommended a possible employer at their last meeting.

The "old school" dad, who says he was tough on his son, speaks of him with tenderness.

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"He was a qualified painter . . . he had so much potential, he was an incredible artist and socially adept, he could talk the bark off a tree and he was a striking young man."

Trying to explain his son's actions, Te Hemi said he believed Thompson had undiagnosed depression.

"He had goals but he had been knocked back so many times and I think, for him, he'd had enough."

The death had changed Te Hemi's views on suicide.

"I thought it was selfish."

Now, the Ngai Tahu [education] manager has a new perspective.

"It's more than an act you can describe as selfish, it's an act of so much deep vulnerability, there's no way for that person to find a way out."

He said this was the key message in his talk.

"I've been in a dark place as a 17-year-old and it's like being in a dark room and there's no escape plan."

It was up to friends, family and the community to recognise this and help those in such despair to find a way out, he said.

"It has to be that way. We can't depend on people in that place to have an escape plan because when you are at that point there is no way out."

Te Hemi said he had to live with regret for not recognising the warning signs and acting more "aggressively" to help Thompson.

"I have worked in the youth work sector and I pride myself on inspiring . . . people to be resilient. But I couldn't save my own son."

The manager at social services agency He Waka Tapu, Lovey Ratima-Rapson, said the symposium was free and open to everyone affected by suicide or with an interest in suicide prevention. 

"The idea is that when they come they will leave with their kete (basket) full of resources, information and contacts."


Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz

0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.

Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).

 - Stuff


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