Tattoo artist Raine Mackenzie with Aaron De Burgh from Wellington. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
Ryan Crook was 18 years old when he took his own life in July.
His life was one of “too many” to be honoured at Saturday’s suicide awareness fundraiser in Masterton.
The event, hosted by Sacred Art Tattoo and Piercing, was a chance for people bereaved by suicide and affected by mental illness to gather together, get tattooed, and raise money for suicide prevention in Wairarapa.
More than $8500 was raised on Saturday from tattooing and other events, such as a bake sale and live auction.
One woman who opted for a semi-colon tattoo, was Ryan’s mother Donna Harper.
The semi-colon tattoo is a symbol for suicide prevention around the world.
It symbolises the continuation of a person’s story.
Donna describes the pain of losing her son as having “a piece of you that is gone forever that you can never get back”.
“It’s really fresh for me, but I think talking about it is important,” she said.
“Ryan, and other people who have done this – it’s because the only way they know how to get away from pain is to escape it.
“What they don’t know in their time of darkness is that the pain they are leaving behind is way worse and something we all have to live with.”
She said after being bereaved by suicide, “you are never the same person ever again”.
“You can carry on with your little mask on, but you are broken and no one can fix that – no one
“I have milestones yet to come: my birthday without him, his birthday, the first Christmas without him, all of that – that’s going to be the hardest thing.
She said people coped with loss in many ways.
“When people come up to me and ask, how are you feeling, it’s a natural response to say, good, I’m fine – but I’ve stopped doing that now.
“There was a song that was played at Ryan’s funeral.
“Some days when I hear it, I’m really happy about it, other days, I hear it, I pull over in my car and fall to pieces – drowning.
“It is waves of emotion and it is so intense.
“But you can’t stop your life.
“You have to keep going.”
Ryan’s friends also attended Saturday’s event including Danielle Morgan, 18, Anna Patete, 19, and Caitlin Sullivan, 16.
Each said how encouraging it was to see the Wairarapa community come together to support suicide awareness and prevention.
“It’s been good to support other people who have been bereaved by suicide and grieve together, but it has also been a privilege to honour the lives of the people we have lost,” Danielle said.
Anna, who has a few tattoos in memory of Ryan, encouraged young people to check up on their friends often – “send a text, a message, anything, ask them how they are really going”.
She said she would like to see an emphasis on mental health education in schools – “a lot of people we lose are young, but it’s not being taught that it’s okay not to be okay”.
“In the future, I would like to meet someone who have never had to suffer like my friends and I have.
“Someone who has saved a life, not mourned one.”
Along with tattoos, the event included a raffle, sausage sizzle, bake sale, auction, and a “sound journey” led by Wairarapa’s Jonas Koukl who holds a masters in primary education with a focus on music and music therapy.
Owner of Sacred Art, Sarah Tredray, said the event was a success due to immense support from the community.
“The incredible support from local businesses are what made this fundraiser so successful and, of course, every single person that joined in or took part in anyway.
“We have had so many people sharing their heart-breaking stories with us, but communicating and showing support without judgement is the first step.”
WHERE TO GET HELP
Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865/0508 TAUTOKO [24/7]. This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 [24/7].
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 [24/7].
Youthline: 0800 376 633 [24/7] or free text 234 [8am-12am], or email [email protected]
What’s Up: online chat [7pm-10pm] or 0800 WHATSUP/0800 9428 787 children’s helpline [1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends].
Kidsline [ages 5-18]: 0800 543 754 [24/7].
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.