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The season of dark storms...

Monday June 20, 2016 Written by Published in Weekend
Thomas Wynne. 16061707 Thomas Wynne. 16061707

Aitutaki-based counsellor Thomas Wynne discusses a topic few people like to talk about: suicide. His thought-provoking feature is timely, as it precedes a visit to the Cook Islands next by New Zealand comedian Mike King, who has fought his own battles with depression, addiction and recovery. King will be visiting schools on Rarotonga and Aitutaki and will be bringing a voice to the otherwise taboo subject of suicide.

THE STORY goes that Mau Pialug, a seasoned navigator, pulled Nainoa Thompson aside a few days before he was to set sail to Tahiti aboard the Voyaging Vaka Hokule’a and asked him to recite the Star Chart from Oahu, Hawai’i to Tahiti Nui.

Nainoa knew this well and was able to recite it without a problem.

Mau asked him to do this on five different occasions as they sailed towards Tahiti causing Nainoa to doubt whether he was reciting it properly or not.

After the sixth time of reciting the star chart, Mau asked Nainoa if he could see the island. Nainoa did not understand the question and why his teacher asked him this again and again. Troubled he told Mau that he did not understand the question.

Finally, Nainoa closed his eyes and then began to feel and see the island with his body, heart, soul and mind. When Mau came next to ask him: “Can you see the island”? Nainoa replied: “Yes, I can see it.” Mau smiled and said: “You must keep the island in your mind, for you are the navigator. There will be heavy seas and storms and dark starless nights on your journey. You will be tested, but you will be safe if you keep that island in your mind. If you lose it, you will die and your crew will die with you”.For Nainoa this was the most important lesson of his life.

What do we do when the seas, dark storms and starless nights arise on our life journey? What do we do when we close our eyes and all we can see is darkness and no island, no safe place to land ahead? When every fibre of our being’ our body, mind and spirit feel lost.

Mau Pialug warned Nainoa Thompson that if he could not see the island, then he and his crew would be lost, and worse, would surely die. This foreboding warning is no different to the many in our community that have been lost, or are in a season of dark storms, and can no longer see land, and perish sadly at their own hands.

It’s been just over a year since the Suicide Prevention Steering Committee delivered its report to government. Just over a year since that group of Public and Private sector workers volunteered to work over and above their jobs and over the course of three years compile a comprehensive report with clear recommendations to help those in the dark, see the island and realise they are not alone, that they can get help and that the voyage they are on is one many have traversed before and arrived safely.

Can I again express my deepest gratitude to the tireless work of Vania Kenning as she as Tu Oe navigated us through this journey and to the many that contributed great or small meitaki maata for your heart felt contribution.

And to those also that had gone before us, the many projects led by Te Kainga, the ministry of Health and NGOs we thank you for the opportunity to build on the work you had already done. And finally to those on our committee that continued the work over those three years, meitaki maata, meitaki ranuinui, e meitaki atupaka.

Back here in Aitutaki Its now more than 90 days since our brother Dorn Marsters walked out of his home with just his shorts on and never returned. His jandals were left at the doorstep and clothes were still neatly packed in his bag.

Despite searches by the many good people here in Aitutaki, his friends and family, he has not been found and yet we still hope for a miracle and his return. Mama Ruru and Papa Parerima Marsters sat at our table last Sunday after church, to enjoy a meal together, and as we spoke after our meal, the brokenness of their situation poured out as tears and anguish flowed at the loss of their son.

What parent can bear that burden, what parent wants to lose a child, what parent wants to be left with the grief, mourning for their child. It is that early morning phone call we dread, the words as parents we never want to hear, and a reality for some we hope to never share.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marsters family near and far as the traverse this journey together. Three daughters are left without their daddy and a family without their son and brother, uncle, cousin, while many of us go back to our daily lives. And to the many parents reading this that know this deep hurt we hold you up in our thoughts and prayers.

I contacted Youthline last week to ask how the TALK ABOUT IT 4357 phone number was going. How many were accessing the number and calling when they needed someone to talk to.

Sadly the stats show it has dropped off to very few if any. Not they said because people suddenly no longer have need, but mainly because the advertising campaign ran out of funding.

When we had the ads running the statistics went up, when we haven’t they decline. We seem go back to our daily lives and yet we know that there are many out there hurting, that need to know they can get help 24/7 anytime of the day.

We are so thankful to the Cook Islands government for their continued support, the New Zealand government that gave us the aid money to get the project up and running in 2012, and to the Rotary Club Rarotonga who helped us with the SIF funding for advertising up until Christmas of last year and John Carters Youth for Life Trust he set up before he left, but here we are in June, and 6 months have transpired and we have lost another life to this tragedy.

How many more do we need to lose before we knee jerk into action again? I am convinced not one more, not one more family to lose someone they love because they felt they had no-one to talk to.

In the report submitted to government some key recommendations were presented and are summarised here:

The establishment of a Taskforce with government and civil society representation responsible for the development of a national policy framework; increased social service capacity and capability (particularly in the field of counselling); continuation of the 0800 Helpline; and an agreed method for recording and classifying information and data pertaining to suicide and suicide attempts.

Our partnership with government and the political will to fund and resource these initiatives are a necessity if we are to see real change that remains and not just a reaction to another tragedy. We have learned that partnership.

Collaboration and getting everyone on board is the only way to prevent the tragedy of suicide in our beautiful country. This is not a governmental issue nor one for legislators or policy makers though this helps. This is a societal issue that we all must own and contribute to in some way if we are to make continued change.

As it would happen, Mike King is on his way to Rarotonga, and thanks again to Air Raro will also spend some time with us in Aitutaki. His talks to our students and staff last year were real, honest, refreshing, funny at times, but poignant with regard to mental health and suicide prevention.

His Key To Life Charitable Trust enables him to reach so many more people with his positive message around life, mental health and suicide prevention. Especially in the light of New Zealand’s statistics that show over 560 people took their lives last year. That is a staggering amount of life gone and families left grieving long afterwards.

The fact is we need more people like Mike out there saying there is someone you can talk to and it’s going to be ok, and who have made that journey themselves and arrived at solid ground. You can be a part of that answer, by just showing someone that you care and that you want to listen. We are working with the Cook Islands Youth Council, Internal Affairs Youth Division, and anyone else that can support those that feel like they can’t go on.

So that when the dark storms come, as they come for us all, and the seas are high thrashing your vaka, and you close your eyes and you just can’t see land; you will know that there is someone next to you that can, and together we can make it to solid ground and safety. Let’s talk about and also be the ones there to listen.

            - Thomas Tarurongo               Wynne

1 comment

  • Comment Link Metua Winter Thursday, 23 June 2016 12:00 posted by Metua Winter

    This is such a beautiful story/status to read. I myself have lost a brother 26years ago and a 28yr old son 8months ago to suicide. I can relate to the Marsters parents/family the pain, anguish and absolute devastation feelings, of never understanding the reasons, of why our loved ones chose to do what they thought was their only way to resolve their heartaches, pains or whatever, by ending their own life. I, with my many brothers and sisters grew up next door to Dawn and his family as a children, before we all migrated overseas. We played a lot together, ate together and fought with one another, while growing up. We were each others best friends in our village.
    I am very thankful to see and hear, you have taken a moment to educate and speak to the young people of Rarotonga/Aitutaki about such issues as Suicide. Our people needed to hear and be educated, and where they can seek help, advices etc.
    I am very humbled and great full to see these help offered to our people and families now.
    Keep it up and God Bless.

    Metua Winter (Tuiravakai)