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‘Shot Bro’ returns to stage

Rob Mokaraka. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Story of suicide and survival to start conversation

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

A free show which aims to open a dialogue about suicide and depression will come to Wairarapa this weekend.

Shot Bro is a one-man performance by acclaimed actor and playwright Rob Mokaraka, whose undiagnosed depression resulted in a “massive mental and spiritual breakdown” in 2009.

Mokaraka first performed the show in 2016, following a seven-year journey of healing and self-discovery from a suicide attempt, in which he approached police with a meat cleaver outside his Auckland home.

He was shot by police in the chest at close range as a result.

Despite his efforts at the time, Mokaraka survived and Shot Bro has become his “fulltime passion”.

“It’s learning to stand in your own truth and share your own story, and for other people who are hurting in silence,” he said.

“The story is slowly not on top of you, you’re on top of your story.”

Shot Bro has been described as a powerful, raw, and authentic show that shares the effects of depression.

Mokaraka described it as a “funny, dark, real, and educational” performance which has helped him to understand what he was experiencing at the time of his suicide attempt.

He hoped Shot Bro would help others to process their own experience with depression.

“The moment they’re listened to without judgement is the moment they start to heal,” Mokaraka said.

“We are collectively holding that space. It takes a village to heal a village.”

The show had been crafted strategically and with care to ensure the audience were supported while processing the heavy content.

“When you talk about depression, it’s so serious,” Mokaraka said.

“That’s why it’s padded on either side with humour or light.

“Shot Bro has a lot of coping mechanisms.

“People are being confronted because it isn’t just cerebral, it’s emotional. It’s easy to hide behind your mind.

“I’m like your steward on the flight, but I don’t bring you drinks.”

As part of this care and as a “grounding process”, the 70-minute performance would be followed by a 20-minute audience discussion and light refreshments.

“The key is not to traumatise the community that you’re telling your story to,” Mokaraka said.

“That is a social responsibility that you have when you’re opening up people’s emotions.

“The forum itself is the most healing part of the show.”

For Mokaraka, change did not come overnight, but subsequent media coverage, medical procedures, and a court case eventually forced him to face his trauma.

“That took a long time,” he said.

“There’s no more hiding anymore. There’s no more hiding in my mind either.”

One of the unanticipated outcomes of the incident was the amount of support offered by strangers.

“It made me feel like I wasn’t a freak,” Mokaraka said, though he continued to question whether he deserved this kind of love for some time.

“It’s just about making someone feel acknowledged, and that’s what the show is doing for me.

“It is humbling to listen to people’s stories and how they’re trying to navigate them.”

When asked whether Shot Bro had changed his life, Mokaraka replied it had done much more than that.

“Creating Shot Bro has saved my life,” he said.

Audience feedback indicated it was not just his life the show had saved either: “I’ve gotten people coming up to saying thank you for saving my life.”

New Zealand had one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and people of any age, ethnicity, or social standing could be affected, Mokaraka said.

“You feel like you’ve lost someone all the time. You’re grieving for something, but you’re not sure what it is or who it is.”

His advice to those who may be hurting was to practise being kind to themselves, an act which was harder than it sounded.

“I love you bro, I love you sis. You’re not alone. You’re allowed as much help as you need,” Mokaraka said.

“Basically, please don’t take your life.”

Shot Bro was being hosted in Wairarapa by Yellow Brick Road [formerly Supporting Families NZ].

Chief executive Vicki Lee said national suicide statistics were concerning, and Wairarapa had had its share of tragic incidents in recent years.

“To be able to bring this show to three venues across the Wairarapa is a real privilege and much needed.

“Different people need different tools in their toolbox to address their mental illness and if this amazing show inspires someone to do something different or get some help for themselves or a family member, that will be extremely worthwhile.”

Shot Bro will show at the following times and locations; entry by koha or donation:

Greytown Rugby Club – March 21, 3pm

Martinborough Rugby Club – March 22, 6.30pm

Poto College House, Masterton – March 23, 6.30pm

Where to get help

These 24/7 free phones are operated by trained counsellors who can help you talk through problems and identify ways of coping.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 [Available 24/7]

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 [0508 Tautoko] [Available 24/7]

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Need To Talk? Free Call Or Text 1737 [Available 24/7]

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 [Available 24/7]

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 [1pm to 11pm]

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 [Available 24/7]

Samaritans: 0800 726 666

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