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Gisborne's Hear4U movement off and running

A groundswell of support for Gisborne's Hear4U movement will bring the biggest number of entries to the half-marathon section of the Taupo Marathon on Saturday.

The Gisborne Hear4U team of 137 have registered to walk or run the half-marathon in a black shirt with the message in white lettering, “Hear4U. Men's mental health awareness and suicide prevention”.

Their strong presence and Hear4U message caught the attention of the organisers who have asked Hear4U founder Krissy Mackintosh to speak after the event.

Krissy, along with Renee Grant and Jo Higgins-Ware, created the movement Hear4U to get men talking about male suicide as a way to prevent it.

The Taupo half-marathon is project number five for the Hear4U team, and it is no coincidence it is centred around exercise.

Fitness and mental health go hand in hand, said Krissy.

“There's a saying in this house. If you're losing your shit, go for a run.

“It's very effective. If you're having a bad day or feel down, you can zone out. It becomes quite addictive.”

Krissy said the 21.2km half-marathon would be a challenge for some members of the group, who covered the whole fitness spectrum.

But advocating for men's mental health was the attraction.

Members of the team have either experienced the loss of a loved one through suicide, or have battled their own mental illnesses.

Krissy said some in the crew had contemplated suicide.

“We're putting it out there in the public eye because we have been there and don't want others to feel they are alone.

“The diversity within our team shows it's not men helping men, it's families helping men.

“Traditionally men are the breadwinners and have to be the strong ones. But we all need to band together as a community to help our men.”

Hear4U was created after Gisborne man Toby Fraser, 21, took his life two years ago today, July 28.

The shirts worn by the Hear4U team have #253 on the back — Toby's race number in motorcross.

“The story wouldn't have started without Toby,” said Krissy, who added the best way to heal was to turn what happened into something positive.

Over 50 of the participants also have 4TOBZ printed on the back of their shirts — including Toby's mum Chris Fraser.

Chris said men put too much pressure on themselves to be successful and be the provider.

“When men face problems they can't fix they can turn to suicide as a solution.”

Chris said she would not have labelled Toby as being depressed. He was high energy, always made an impression on people and loved to laugh,

“I mean really laugh! Not all suicides come under depression, you have to throw the net wider, relationship crisis, social/work crisis, head injury trauma and influence of alcohol are much greater causes.

“This is not just a male problem, it is our community problem. We, the community, need to get better at identifying when men are struggling. We need to get better at listening and not judging.”

“Ask blunt questions like, are you feeling suicidal? Help your man make a plan to live,” Chris said.

Krissy explains it as a “fast and low” descent into a moment where you can't see the wood for the trees.

She gets frustrated when people think those who have taken their own lives, but were “always smiling and happy”, must have “faked” any happiness.

“When you have depressive moods you can feel so low. So any moment that is happy, you grab it and celebrate it. It's not fake.”

'Fitness and mental health go hand in hand'

Shannon Crane, 38, is part of the Hear4U movement. He will run the Taupo half-marathon with his son Lachlan, 13.

He had his own brush with mental illness about two years ago.

“Mine was around work-related stress.

“It was Waitangi Day, 2019. I received an email during the day and it was literally the final straw that broke me.”

Shannon said he stood in a cupboard at his home and “lost it” emotionally. It was a moment he had not seen coming.

He had been working in middle-management, and compounding stress had built up.

“You can't do it alone, you have to have support.”

For Shannon that was his partner Teresa.

She found him in the cupboard crying that day. Her first words to him were, “are you safe? Are you OK?”

Then she got hold of his boss and said her partner would be going on sick leave.

Shannon was able to see a doctor the next day. He said the experience of being looked after made him feel vulnerable, and humble.

Shannon was prescribed anti-depressants for six months. He saw a counsellor and exercised by mountain biking with his son Lachlan.

He wants to speak up to show other men it is OK to not be OK, and that it does get better.

“Now, I'm happy,” he says.

“During that time it was about completely hitting rock bottom and then building myself back up.”

He swapped middle management for driving diggers in the bush, and has recently changed careers again to project management.

The new jobs came with a pay decrease, and that did create some financial stress. But Teresa was their “rock”.

“She said ‘don't worry about it, we'll make it work'.”

Shannon said, “people over-think”.

“We need to stop caring what people think.

“One thing I've always tried to live by is the saying, ‘People don't remember what you say, but they'll always remember how you made them feel'.”

Post-breakdown Shannon spent a lot of time re-fuelling, sleeping, and he exercised.

Teresa recounted to Shannon recently how in the first few weeks after his rock-bottom, he would still join the family on the daily walk to school — but he was always at the back, head down.

Then over those weeks, as the processes of medication, counselling and exercise took hold, she watched him slowly move to the front again, walking with his head held high.

Krissy said Shannon was exactly the type of man they were advocating for.

“He's doing his best, paying his taxes, but not stepping back to look at how he is.”

The Hear4U team would like to thank their many sponsors and supporters, plus family and friends who had been “very generous” towards their Taupo half-marathon goal.

IT'S OK TO NOT BE OK: This group of Gisborne people will take the Taupo half-marathon by storm this weekend with the largest number of entries for a team, and the strongest message. Picture by Liam Clayton
UNDIES... UNDIES... SPEEDOS: It is forecast to be a chilly seven degrees when the starting gun goes off at the Taupo half marathon this weekend but Gisborne's Liam Boyle is going to run the whole way in Speedos. Picture supplied