‘Check up on everyone’, says HopeWalk organiser after 2020 event postponed

HopeWalk organisers Bary and Wendy Neal are planning a smaller gathering at Seymour Square, after the postponement of this year’s event.

Scott Hammond/Stuff

HopeWalk organisers Bary and Wendy Neal are planning a smaller gathering at Seymour Square, after the postponement of this year’s event.

A Marlborough man who lost his son to suicide four years ago is “gutted” to postpone this year’s Blenheim HopeWalk, when “this year, more than any, people are struggling”.

Event organisers Wendy and Bary Neal will instead gather at Seymour Square for a smaller event for World Suicide Day on Thursday.

Wendy Neal said the fountain and clock tower would turn yellow – the colour of the awareness campaign – and they would share in a minute’s silence to remember those lost to suicide.

Bary Neal said it had been a shame to have the HopeWalk cancelled, especially given the mental health challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“I know there’s a lot of people around who are hurting at the moment, from job losses, and with job losses comes money losses,” he said.

“And quite often with money and job losses, stress on a relationship can cause relationship issues and things can sort of just snowball.”

Blenheim’s first HopeWalk in 2017 had more than 900 participants.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Blenheim’s first HopeWalk in 2017 had more than 900 participants.

Observed on September 10, World Suicide Day aimed to raise awareness and signify a commitment to suicide prevention.

Originally started in Auckland, the HopeWalk was an event to encourage awareness and discussion around suicide.

Neal brought the HopeWalk campaign to Blenheim in 2017, the year after he lost his son Matt, 22, to suicide.

“A couple of months after I lost him … I thought I’ve got to do something to try and help others who were in the same situation as my boy.”

Bary Neal lost his son Matt to suicide nearly four years ago.

Scott Hammond/Stuff

Bary Neal lost his son Matt to suicide nearly four years ago.

“I expected to have a couple of hundred people turn up, but we ended up with over 900.

“Based on that I knew it was a topic that needed a bit of discussion, and it was good people were turning up to support it, even people who hadn’t lost loved ones.”

The event was co-organised by Neal’s wife Wendy, who he met organsing the HopeWalk in 2017. Wendy had lost her husband to suicide in November 2015.

As well as the gathering at Seymour Square, Neal was also encouraging people to share photographs of themselves in yellow.

They were also organising coffee and catch-up groups for people touched by suicide. Neal said he often received messages from loved ones needing support from someone who could empathise.

“They’ve talked to counsellors but unfortunately the counsellors haven’t been through it and don’t know the sort of grief they’re going through,” he said.

HopeWalk organisers Bary and Wendy Neal, pictured in 2017, are “gutted” to postpone the 2020 event.

Supplied

HopeWalk organisers Bary and Wendy Neal, pictured in 2017, are “gutted” to postpone the 2020 event.

“Through HopeWalk, I’m just going to start up a very casual [group], come round to our place or meet at the park to have a coffee and a bit of a chat about how life’s treating you since you lost your loved one.

“Not that we’re counsellors or psychologists or anything else but at least we’ve gone through the same grief these people have gone through.”

Neal was concerned about the mental health impacts of Covid-19 and the economic downturn.

“Check in with your family and friends, even if they’re doing well because most people put on a mask,” he said.

“Check up on the ones that are doing well and the ones that are not doing well.”

The gathering was planned for 7.30pm at Seymour Square on Thursday.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

  • 1737, Need to talk? – Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor

  • Depression.org.nz – 0800 111 757 or text 4202

  • Lifeline – 0800 543 354

  • Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

  • Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 for people up to 18 years old. Open 24/7.

  • Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234, email [email protected], or find online chat and other support options here.

  • Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254

  • Samaritans – 0800 726 666

  • What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling available Monday-Friday, noon–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 3pm–10pm daily.

  • thelowdown.co.nz – Web chat, email chat or free text 5626

  • Anxiety New Zealand – 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)

  • Supporting Families in Mental Illness – 0800 732 825.

If it is an emergency click here to find the number for your local crisis assessment team. In a life-threatening situation call 111.

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