Guest blog from Joseph Fa’afiu.
My name is Joseph Fa’afiu and I had the privilege of taking part in FLO Talanoa facilitator training in February 2016.
I participated in FLO Talanoa to learn, upskill and also network with other like-minded people in our community. As a pastor and community leader I believe I have the responsibility and opportunity to help my community find HOPE.
It seems like a noble theme, but as someone who had lost a friend to suicide and also someone who has lived experience, I believe it’s an issue we need to talk about and an issue I’m willing to fight for.
This year I founded HOPEWALK, a community action suicide awareness and prevention movement which brings people together who have been effected by suicide. HOPEWALK is a walk set along a pre-determined distance in a city, area or communities.
As people walk together they realise the person beside, behind and in front of them is just like them, and that’s where the 'wonder’ begins.
People speak openly with others as they walk and realise that they are not alone, even those who have struggled have realised that it was okay to talk about suicide and mental illness because there was no silence, no shame, no stigma.
At our first HOPEWALK which was held in South Auckland, a place close to my heart, about 2,500 (approx.) people walked. Yes; every one of them affected by suicide. Another 300 walked in our HOPEWALK Te Awamutu. Our third HOPEWALK is already attracting a good crowd of suicide awareness walkers.
Our motivation comes from the fact we are representing those who have gone too soon; those who are not statistics on a piece of paper, but loved ones with names who we miss so much. We also hope we can give hope to those who are struggling with suicide ideation and mental illness.
Our heart is that we build a bridge from the community to the agencies and organisations doing amazing work in the area of mental health, like Le Va, and highlight their work.
FLO Talanoa has allowed me now to provide my community with a workshop that will help us collectively navigate through the storms we face, but in the hope we can make it through together. As we say in HOPEWALK, we are “stronger together”.
Thank you to Le Va for providing the community with FLO Talanoa and allowing us to help our community.