Teens' mothers united in grief
Simon Jones and Brock Helm grew up within a block of one another.
They went to the same kindergarten, played in the same rugby team and their mothers were best friends.
Now Vicki Jones and Fiona Helm share a dark and unshakeable bond - their boys committed suicide within 10 days of each other in December 2009.
The Temuka mothers, only now ready to publicly speak about their sons' deaths, are forming a support group for families left behind to pick up the pieces after a suicide because "unless you've been through it, you just don't understand".
The pair both feel suicide is a taboo subject that has been "kept under the blanket for far too long".
"People need to talk about it and stop thinking that if they don't talk about it it will go away," Jones said.
"Families don't want to feel like they're tarnished; you don't want to have to walk down the street with your head bowed because your child committed suicide."
Jones' son, Simon, took his own life at the age of 19.
He had lost his "dream job", his relationship was on the rocks and he was struggling with eczema.
But these are problems most teenagers face. Simon was not depressed and he never gave his family any indication of the dark thoughts he was harbouring, his mother says.
On the last day of Simon's life, she recalls returning home to find him sitting on the couch completely blank "just staring into space".
He got up, telling her he was heading out for the night.
A few hours later, Jones picked up the family's brand new telephone book and saw indentations on the cover, a sign someone had leant against it to write.
Simon was the only one who had been home that day and thinking it was odd for him write such a long letter, Jones tried to decipher the words by brushing ashes over the cover.
A few haunting phrases became legible: "Dear Mum, Dad and Courts", "watching you from above" and "always love you".
She rang the police and a frantic search for her son began. His body was found by the river the next day.
Losing Simon felt like "everything inside my body was on the outside".
"You are completely turned inside out. You have lost your soul."
The hardest thing for her was coping with the fact that Simon "chose to leave us".
"It's always there at the back of our mind. Why? What did I do wrong?"
Jones does not believe Simon would have realised the ripple his death was going to cause, nor how much it was going to alter his family and friends' lives.
"All of our futures have changed and if he had actually thought about what the consequences would be, then he wouldn't have done it," she said.
Her best friend, Fiona Helm, lost her son, Brock, to suicide four days after Simon was buried. He was 18.
Helm does not blame Simon for her son's death and said, at the time, Brock had problems of his own.
"Of all the things to have in common with your best friend, this is it for us," she said.
Helm feels that if there was more awareness of suicide, her son would still be here today.
"Suicide is a social issue so therefore society has got to deal with it. We want to let people know that we are here to listen or help in any way. When it first happens, you feel like an outsider and sometimes you just need someone to say: ‘It's okay if you want to hide today'."
Jones, Helm and two other mothers who have lost a child to suicide have formed the Canterbury branch of Community Action for Suicide Prevention Education and Research (Casper).
They plan to hold a workshop in Timaru on November 22.
- © Fairfax NZ News