Shining Light on the Dark Matamata-Piako organisers Amber McGrail and Briarley Stephens.
Phrases like “harden up” and “take a concrete pill” aren’t welcome at a mental health awareness event next month.
Matamata local Amber McGrail, with the help of Briarley Stephens, Melissa Martin and Kat Ross have established an non-for-profit organisation in Matamata-Piako to support rural folk “trudging through the mud” of anxiety, depression and suicide.
Shining Light on the Dark originally started on the West Coast after the suicide of a Hokitika rugby club member in 2017. The initiative has since branched out to South Waikato and now Matamata-Piako.
“I attended the South Waikato event last year in memory of my best friend who committed suicide almost 11 years ago, and instantly felt inspired to create something similar,” McGrail said.
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“It’s a real different grief [losing someone to suicide] it affected me and it still does. I think about all the things he’s missed out on.”
On top of the death of her best friend, McGrail, a mother of three, has also suffered from severe anxiety after experiencing a stillbirth when she was 21 and several miscarriages.
“When it [anxiety] starts coming you often don’t know what it is, when I first started getting anxiety I was like what the hell is this. I thought I was a looney!
“It wasn’t until someone told me…when they said that’s anxiety, it all started to piece together.”
Stephens said support is also more important than ever in the rural community with more farmers struggling with mental health.
“Rural suicide and mental health is quite massive. There’s the attitude of harden up and take a concrete pill, with men especially, but it’s not that easy,” Stephens said.
“Around 6,080 people in New Zealand lost their lives to suicide in the last year.
“We don’t know how many of those are in the district, but we know ourselves quite a few people who have lost their lives to suicide and we felt like now was the time for us to help the community out.”
Shining Light on the Dark gumboot fun run will be on November 1 at 5.30pm at Bedford Park in Matamata.
There will be an obstacle course to weave around and the first lap will be a non-silence lap- where everyone can make as much noise as they want.
There will also be food stalls, performances and the event will be hosted by comedian Tom Sainsbury.
“We will also have service providers coming around to talk to people about mental health and maybe give people tips on where they can go from there for support,” Stephens said.
“Any money we raise will go towards this event, we’re not doing it as a fundraiser. But any surplus money we are hoping to inject into the community hopefully by way of a support group.”
For more go to shininglightmatamatapiako.co.nz
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