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Breaking down the barriers

Gael De Hertog has organised a mental health awareness event featuring singer-songwriter Julia Grace at the Wairarapa College Hall on August 10 at 7pm. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND

Mother bereaved by suicide organises mental health event
Positive event to promote mental well-being

Emily Ireland

You cannot heal what is hidden.

That’s the biggest thing Masterton’s Gael De Hertog has learned in her bereavement journey after she lost her son Aaron to suicide in December, 2016.

Another thing she has learned is that everyone’s journey in life is different, but that there is always hope from kindness – something she believes there’s not enough of in this world.

“Statistically, we have a high rate of suicide in Wairarapa.

“I would like to see it drop – I wouldn’t like anyone to go through the grief I have experienced.”

Gael hopes to open up conversations about mental health through an evening with Kiwi professional speaker and award-winning singer-songwriter Julia Grace at the Wairarapa College hall.

The all-ages event will be held at 7pm on August 10 and entry is by koha.

“Julia Grace is a teacher by profession, but her passion is as a mental wellness advocate,” Gael said.

“She has a passion for spreading a message of hope and inspiration through her own life journey.”

Julia Grace’s first album “juliagrace”, received the Tui Award for Best Gospel/Christian Album at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2006.

She has since released Beautiful Survivor (2010), It Is Well E.P (2013), and Girl On The Kitchen Floor (2016).

Julia Grace had been chosen for the event because of the message of hope she shared while exploring serious topics including her own journey of crisis and depression.

“I want to help to bring an understanding and awareness of the effect suicide has on our community through a positive event,” Gael said.

“If one person can benefit from this, then it’s all worth it.”

Speaking of her son Aaron, Gael said he was “happily married and held a very good job where he was recognised for his abilities”.

“He left behind a beautiful supportive wife and a three-year-old son.

“There were lots of questions and there was no note left by him.

“Even though I knew that things weren’t completely right in his emotional and mental well-being, he only chose to open up when he chose to.

“I now realise that was because it was too painful.”

Gael said her son’s biggest focus in life was kindness.

“After Aaron’s son was born, he said to me, the biggest thing I want him to know is the receiving and the giving of kindness.

“I said to him, there couldn’t be a greater thing in life to try to project and show.

“If there was more kindness in the world, it would be a better place.”

Gael said when her son died, initially, people did not know how to react and sometimes avoided interaction.

“At the time, I felt very hurt, but I’ve now come to realise they probably didn’t know what to say.

“One thing I found helpful is when people talk to me about my son.

“It’s a way of expressing compassion.

“It’s not to dwell, but to understand that he still means something to me even though he is no longer here.

“He’s still my son.”

The evening with Julia Grace at the Wairarapa College hall on August 10 will be “café” seating as opposed to auditorium seating.

This is so people can interact at their tables.

There will also be a help desk at the back of the room.

Some useful free phone helplines

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

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 54 (0800 KIDSLINE) supporting under 18 yrs

Youthline: 0800 376 633, free text 234

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (supports 5-18 yr olds, 1pm-11pm)

Women’s Refuge Crisis Line: 0800 733 843

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757

Samaritans: 0800 726 666

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Outline NZ: 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) sexuality and gender identity issues

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