Wesley Faleoleo

Tama Toa / Teina Toa Project

There are men who are suffering in silence ...we kept coming across suicide

Welsey Faleoleo helped establish Love Somebody Charitable Trust in 2019. “There was a group of us who felt challenged to do something for the community, and the thing we had in common was that we kept coming across suicide,” he says. "There are men who are suffering in silence.”

Wesley was also spurred into action by a thread on a men’s online support group. “Someone posted, ‘If you were successful at a suicide attempt, how long would you have been dead for?’” The 150 plus  rapid responses stunned him. “They were saying (they would have been dead), 20 years ago, two months ago, two weeks ago. This is so common, and so taboo at the same time. There are people out there that really need support.”

Wesley says, “That harden up, take some concrete pills mentality out there. I went through a bit myself. I had a bad business experience. I was so depressed. You’re not the failure. The attempt failed. But you’re not the failure.”

Tama Toa was created for tāne 15 years of age and older seeking support. It grew out of the Trust’s existing Fight the Good Fight Student programme at Mt Albert Grammar School, and was tweaked for an adult audience. “We found that parents jump on if they get a buy-in, if they feel like they are part of something, as opposed to being spoken to,” says Wesley. “It’s more (asking them) ’What are your best practices?’ Sharing in a way that they get a part to play. We can all contribute. It takes a village to raise a child, and keep each other accountable.”

This project was initially created for men, but Teina Toa, a support group for women has since been formed. Currently it’s a 12 week Zoom support group and every four weeks, a face-to-face hui is held with a guest speaker. Wesley says this model is one they hope to expand on. “We’re not clinical professionals,” he says. “But we can come together and talk, and we’ll create a safe space for you. Here’s some content that has some good talking points.” A recent face-to-face meet-up had a discussion around shame, rejection, failure and punishment, alongside unpacking strategies to create a fulfilling life. Wesley says, “We call it a slice of heaven. What does your slice of heaven look like to you?

“Let’s respond as opposed to react and put things in perspective. That’s what we’re hopefully creating, a different perspective on challenges when they come your way.”

The convenience of Zoom meetings are an important factor in the project’s success, says Wesley. “It’s 45 minutes but the participants always want to stay on. They open up.

"After the 12 week programme finishes, participants will be asked if they wish to continue to meet online, perhaps fortnightly or monthly,” Wesley says. “The whole idea is to stay available.”

The participants have a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. “Some have attempted suicide, others have family in that space, there are men who have been depressed for long periods and came out of it. And these guys also want to be facilitators.”

To those considering creating their own suicide prevention initiative, Wesley’s advice is “Tell them they’re not alone. Be patient. You don’t have all the answers, and saying that you don’t is key. They’ll remember how much you care, not how much you know.”

Some of the participants in these sessions have generously agreed to share their personal stories via these videos. We thank these men for their courage and Love Somebody Charitable Trust for making them available to us.