Grieving mum speaks out about son's apparent suicide
Patrick Hanson-Friend was a bubbly teenager with lots of friends and a loving family.
The Invercargill 15-year-old is one of at least four Southlanders whose deaths are suspected suicides since early March, with two of them teens.
A good-looking and outgoing boy with a witty sense of humour, Patrick had much to look forward to, but school, as always, was playing on his mind.
A dyslexic, he struggled with schoolwork and dreaded going to classes each day.
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"His brain wasn't wired for school," his mother, Catherine Hanson-Friend, said. "He was a dyslexic and it challenged him every day of his school life."
She dropped Patrick and his sister at an Otatara bus stop on the morning of April 7, but rather than catching the bus to James Hargest College, Patrick made the decision to skip school and by that evening he was dead.
His grieving mother believes it was not planned; rather, it was a decision made in the moment.
"I think he couldn't face school that day ... there was nothing else. He hadn't broken up with a girlfriend, he hadn't fallen out with friends. There was nothing else."
Anything outside of school, he loved to the fullest, his mother said.
"Patrick was the life and soul. He made up for what he perceived as his failings at school with his personality and love of life."
He made friends easily and mixed with all ages, but he also had occasional "adolescent lows" like many teens his age.
Despite this, and contrary to many others who commit suicide, he was generally very open about his feelings with his family and told his parents plenty about his life.
His mother, a grief counsellor, said there were no taboo subjects in the family. She and husband Caine had always encouraged their children to be open with them. Likewise, they had always been open with their children.
She knew the importance of this through her social work and counselling background.
However, when Patrick was experiencing a low mood he would sometimes sit in his bedroom not wanting to talk, but his mother would get him into the lounge to watch the family's favourite comedies together.
Patrick told his parents the night before his death he was feeling down and they chatted, but nothing emerged to suggest the tragedy that would unfold the following day.
The family was "broken" by his death, she said.
"Every single person he touched remembers him as the bubbliest, loveliest person ... and I know that because he is my boy," his mother said.
The song they chose for his funeral was Stuck in a Moment by U2.
"Had he realised that moment would pass," his mother said, "I think it would be different."
A child Taekwondo prodigy who had national titles to his name, Patrick once dreamed of going to the Olympics, but gave up the sport in 2014.
Girls and his mates had taken precedence over Taekwondo and he had started to get disruptive at school. A natural sportsman, he continued to enjoy football, athletics and boxing training.
Hanson-Friend said her son's body was taken back to their home following his death, with more than 130 of his friends from several schools visiting.
It was not only a time for family and friends to spend time with him before the funeral; it was also a lesson for other teens, his mother said.
"I wanted his friends to see what dead looks like. There's no coming back from this."
She knows nothing can fix the damage done and she doesn't want the same thing happening to another family.
Since her son's death she had used her work contacts to help ensure Southland teens who knew about the recent suicides were getting the right information to keep themselves safe.
Mental Health foundation acting chief executive Hugh Norriss said Hanson-Friend had done the right thing by encouraging her kids to speak openly, but suicide was not easily predicted.
"One of the difficult things with suicide is there's no particular pattern that leads up to it. It's different in every case.
"We can only do our best and it's important not to blame each other. If someone encourages their family to talk about their problems, that's the right thing to do.
"But sometimes you don't know, it's so bewildering and it can be so out of character."
Norriss said there were no suicide bereavement support groups in Invercargill, but he encouraged the community to set one up.
Chief Coroner's provisional suicide deaths by district health board region in 2014-15:
Auckland, 48; Bay of Plenty, 32; Canterbury, 61; Capital and Coast, 30; Counties Manukau, 47; Hawkes bay, 29; Hutt, 16; Lakes, 10; Mid Central, 27; Nelson Marlborough, 18; Northland, 28; South Canterbury, 8; Southern, 42; Tairawhiti, 13; Taranaki, 19; Waikato, 49; Wairarapa, 9; Waitemata, 63; West Coast, 7; Whanganui, 8: TOTAL: 564 - highest number since records began in 2007-8.
Where to get help:
The Mental Health Foundation's free resource and information service (09 623 4812) will refer callers to some of the helplines below:
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.
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.
- The Southland Times