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Walk 2 Talk

The community is invited to saddle up or put on their walking shoes this Saturday to raise awareness of men's mental health and suicide prevention.

The Walk 2 Talk trek through Wairakaia Station can be done on horseback if you have your own animal, or by foot.

It will be followed by a barbecue lunch and an auction to raise money for Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust.

Walk organiser and emergency department nurse Sarah Kapene decided something needed to be done after seeing too many men lost to mental health issues.

Mental Health NZ statistics annual provisional suicide statistics for deaths reported to the coroner show there were 87 suicides recorded in Tairawhiti between July 2007 and June 2018. The majority of these were male.

'I think they find it hard to ask for help and they find it a lot harder to ask for help than women,' said Ms Kapene.

'I just want to get the community together and do something — get people talking about it and make a safe place for men.'

Society had the wrong idea of how a depressed person looked and many people did not know how mental health issues were displayed, she said.

'You don't have to be a depressing person to be suffering from depression.

'We all know somebody who killed themselves and the ones I know have been really happy, fun guys.

'Depression is like a broken leg,' she said, pointing to her moon boot and crutches.

'You can be a happy person with a broken leg or a miserable person with a broken leg.'

Two weeks ago, Ms Kapene was out on her horse and crossing a stream when the animal jumped and landed on her leg.

Ms Kapene tried to stand up to take the saddle off to make the animal more comfortable but could feel her bone 'flapping in the wind'.

She had to crawl an hour and a half to get to a road with the intention to wave somebody down for help.

Initially she was unsighted as cars drove past but she eventually caught the attention of a driver, who stopped and called an ambulance.

The ambulance did not see them and drove past them but the driver who stopped to help her sped after it.

She compared the situation to men who experienced mental illness.

They often felt like they could not ask for help because they did not have visible signs of harm.

'They don't feel like they can wave that car down. They don't know how to ask for help and I think they just lose hope.

'That's where they need to learn . . . it is a learned skill to ask for help.

'I just want it to be OK and safe for men to ask for help, not feel ashamed or weak because it's just a brain chemistry thing.

'Often they don't understand why they're feeling so bad because some of them have got heaps of money, privilege and lifestyle. But it affects everybody, whether you're rich or poor.'

Sandra and Rob Faulkner offered the use of their property for the Walk 2 Talk trek.

'It's quite exciting because it's on land that is not normally accessible to the public.'

There will be two tracks — one for riders and one for walkers. Both take around two hours.

'Since doing this I've had heaps of guys come to talk about their depression that I didn't know about.

'I've had girls come and tell me ‘ah yeah, my brother/father/uncle committed suicide' and I've known them for years, and I just didn't know about it.

'Even just having a Facebook page and organising this has got people talking, which is good.

'It's amazing how many people have been through it but just haven't told anyone. If this walk can make people feel like they are not alone, we might be able to do some good.'

Walk 2 Talk is at Wairakaia Station, 1964 Wharerata Road, Muriwai, Gisborne. It costs $20 a person.

saddling up for a cause: Walk 2 Talk organiser Sarah Kapene with horses Matrix and Pearl. The event is at Wairakaia Station tomorrow and features horseback and walking treks. Picture by Paul Rickard