Mother talks about her loss
Thirteen years have passed since Verna Castle's son, Trevor, committed suicide, and she can speak about him now without tears.
But what she's left with, the 85-year-old Timaru woman says, is a sadness that he never spoke openly with her about his struggle with depression.
"I wish I had been able to do something to help him," she said. "But I didn't know what to look for. I didn't know how to manage anything like that."
Trevor Castle died on September 6, 1999, aged 44. It left a hole in their family of six children, she said, that they still feel to this day.
"Each one of [the children] has had to go through their own grieving in a different way," she said.
Verna speaks of her son as a talented athlete, a maths wiz and an avid outdoorsman who particularly enjoyed tramping.
She keeps a framed photo of Trevor, taken a week before his death, on a hike at Mt Somers.
Trevor trained as an electrician and lived away from Timaru for most of his adult life, first working in Twizel on the canals and then living in South Africa for 12 years.
He returned to Timaru in 1995. Looking back on that time, she said, there were little signs that something might be wrong.
"There were things that we didn't pick up on," she said.
"But if we'd have been warned, maybe we would have."
She knew he was seeing a doctor about something, but he wouldn't tell her why.
For a time, Trevor was even treated at a psychiatric hospital – something the family didn't know until after his death.
Verna believes he kept it a secret out of embarrassment – that he saw it as a kind of failure.
"Knowing Trevor, he liked to achieve," she said. "He did not like to fail at anything."
The few times he did speak with her about suicide, she'd do her best to convince him that it would be a mistake, she said.
"I thought, all right, I've talked him out of it. I've showed him that he shouldn't do that to us; that we'd miss him and we love him," she said. "But it didn't seem to work. There was something that we couldn't attend to."
Now, each year, she marks Trevor's birthdays by visiting his grave and placing fresh flowers. The family had not forgotten him, she said. But they've had to let go.
"The only thing I would say to people is to communicate," Verna said. "Keep in contact. It's important. And speak out – don't be afraid to say something."
In an emergency, don't wait – phone TACT (psychiatric crisis team) on 0800 277997 or police on 111.
The Timaru Herald