Every 67 hours a young person in New Zealand kills themself.

That’s more than one every three days, or 130 a year.

Our youth suicide rate (25 and under) is the second worst in the developed world.
The teen rate (15-19) is the worst, so high it raises the global average.

2012 was a particularly bad year.
144 youths took their own lives.

An unprecedented 19 were from Northland, with one as young as 10.

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Seven were from Whangarei.

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Two were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Mia Dunn Colin Taipari-Herewini

What becomes of the

The untold story of teen suicide in the north

JULY 4, 2017

By Olivia Carville

Camera Mike Scott

Design / Development Mac Teariki

Mobile hero Desktop hero

JULY 4, 2017

By Olivia Carville

Camera Mike Scott

Design / Development Mac Teariki


A boy in school uniform is found dead in the garage of a state house and the girl who liked him writes his name across her arm and kills herself.

Remember Colin Taipari-Herewini and Mia Dunn.

Both 14. Both from the same deprived region, the same school, the same classroom, the same background.

Just two Māori kids, two of 144 youths who took their lives in 2012. But the impact of their deaths spiralled beyond the borders of their Whangarei high school and laid bare a suicide epidemic that has shaken the highest echelons of government.

Mia Dunn
Mia Dunn
Colin Taipari-Herewini
Colin Taipari-Herewini

After Colin and Mia died, bureaucrats and officials from Northland to Wellington became aware of unprecedented suicidal behaviour in the north and began scrambling to conceal and contain it.

But nothing they could do was enough. So more children died.

They killed themselves in Mangonui, Kerikeri, Hikurangi, Whangaroa, Kaeo, Waipoua.

In desperation, political barriers were cut, funding released, new jobs created, trauma teams flown in and daily meetings held. The following year youth suicides in Northland dropped by more than half and the downward trend continued, with only one self-inflicted death in 2015.

The people of the north thought they were out of the woods. Iwi leaders said the situation was under control; the crisis had passed.

But death returned in early 2016. Six people aged 25 and under died by suspected suicide within three months in the small Far North town of Kaitaia.

The suicide contagion left those who had already lived through the nightmare of 2012 wondering: Where did we, as a country, go so wrong?


Where to get help:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633
  • Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
  • Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
  • Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666
  • Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)

In the early evening of May 8, 2012, the phone rang in a four-bedroom state house on Kamo Rd, Whangarei. It was Kamo High, calling to say Year 10 student Colin Taipari-Herewini had been stood down for fighting, again.

His aunt and caregiver, Waihoura Taipari, sighed down the phone. Just weeks before she’d told the kids they had to stop getting kicked out of school because she couldn’t take the time off work to look after them.

Thirteen children, not all hers, lived in the house - and feeding and clothing them was hard enough, let alone dealing with suspensions.

She called the children into the lounge and they all trickled in; all but Colin.

“Where’s your brother?” Taipari asked. The kids shrugged. “Look for him. Anywhere. Find him,” she ordered.

The bare-footed children fanned out across the run-down property, opening wardrobes, checking under beds, peering over fences, calling his name.

Colin’s 15-year-old brother found him dead in the garage. (We cannot tell you how Colin took his life because publishing the method of suicide is a criminal offence in New Zealand.)

When Mia Dunn received a text to say Colin, the boy she liked, had killed himself, she was at her best friend Paige Dinsdale’s house in Whakapara. It was late at night and they thought it was a joke, until they logged onto Facebook and saw the RIP posts.

Mia wanted to be outside. It had just stopped raining on a moonless night and the two 14-year-old girls walked down the country road into damp blackness.

Mia's house.
Colin's house.
The garage that Colin died in.
Top left: Mia's house.
Top right: Colin's house.
Bottom: The garage that Colin died in.

Hundreds of people filed through the small house on Kamo Rd over Colin’s three-day wake while Mia sat motionless beside his coffin, refusing to eat or sleep.

“Who’s that girl sitting next to Colin?” Waihoura Taipari asked one of her sons.

“That’s his girlfriend,” she was told.

In the weeks that followed, Mia cried every night and talked to Colin in the sky. Rumours spread that she tried to reach him in a seance.

On June 10, 2012 - almost a month to the day Colin died - Mia wrote the names of her friends and family on her forearm with a marker pen. Colin’s name was bigger than anyone else’s; it was in block letters, right in the middle.

She then walked into the garage of her grand-aunty’s Hikurangi home and tried to end her life.

Donna Williams, who had cared for Mia since she was 10, started wailing when she found her. She wailed long and hard and loud enough to draw neighbours to their windows.

Mia was alive, but lifeless. She was rushed to hospital and three days later - after evidence of a severe brain injury and no signs of improvement - her family agreed to let her go.

Mia’s friends came into the intensive care unit and painted her nails, brushed her hair and applied eyeliner to her closed eyelids before the doctors turned off the machines.

Kamo High then fell into crisis. Students experimented with ouija boards and wrote on Facebook to Colin and Mia: “c u soon”. More attempted to kill themselves and parents were sent a letter of warning that a suicide pact was under way.

“It just ripped the guts out of this school,” said principal Jo Hutt. “Absolutely rocked it to its core.”

More than 150 students in Whangarei were put on the Northland District Health Board (DHB) suicide risk register, according to official documents released to the New Zealand Herald. More than 30 were Kamo High students.

“At present, Northland is experiencing an unprecedented influx of suicidal behaviour in Māori youth. The majority of these youth are connected in some way to youth who have committed suicide or tried to commit this year,” an internal DHB document from August 2012 said.

“It was like watching the unfolding of a blimmin’ train wreck, something you couldn’t stop that was just rolling on. Another one and another one and another one,” said Haami Piripi, chief of Far North iwi Te Rarawa.

Haami Piripi, chief of Far North iwi Te Rarawa

Listen to Haami Piripi

It was one of the worst youth suicide clusters in New Zealand history. But you don’t know about it for a number of reasons.

One reason is that the news at the time was dominated by the first anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, the horror of the Carterton balloon crash and a much-anticipated visit from Prince Charles and Camilla.

The larger reason is that Ministry of Health officials wanted to keep Northland’s unprecedented suicide cluster out of the headlines. Official documents show that in their eagerness to do so they misled the Prime Minister on the severity of the crisis.

Suicide is a word that weighs heavy on the tongue. So heavy some think it’s best to not say it out loud.

For the past few decades New Zealand schools have been told not to use the word in classrooms and to dismantle memorials set up to students who take their own lives. New Zealand media are bound by some of the strictest reporting laws in the world, forbidding publication of certain details of these deaths.

Silence on suicide became orthodox in New Zealand in the mid-1990s after the number of teens killing themselves overtook elderly suicides for the first time. Almost from nowhere Aotearoa was leading the developed world in teen suicide, with reports young Kiwi men were taking their lives at rates triple that of England.

The media started aggressively covering youth suicide and experts disagreed on the consequences of this newfound spotlight. Researchers nudged officials towards international studies that showed media reporting suicide could cause copycat deaths or ‘contagion’.

The contagion phenomenon is controversial, but has been documented around the world. It doesn’t mean suicidal ideation spreads like a cold or flu, but that someone already contemplating suicide might make the impulsive decision to end their life following other deaths in their community.

Experts advised the best way to handle the issue in New Zealand was stonewalling the media and totally “shutting up” about it, according to Canadian Professor John Weaver, who carried out the most comprehensive historical review of suicide in New Zealand in his 2013 book, Sorrows of a Century.

Weaver found a defining quote from this era: In 1996 an associate health minister’s press secretary told a journalist reporting on suicide that there would be no official comment because “the more you discuss it the more people throw themselves off bridges”.

Over the past few decades, international guidelines on suicide reporting have relaxed, with progressive researchers claiming earlier studies on the copycat theory were selective and misleading.

They say New Zealand’s gag orders go far beyond best practice and talking about suicide will help tackle the stigma that smothers it.

New Zealand’s biggest crusader for bringing suicide out of the shadows comes in arguably the unlikeliest of characters: former chief coroner and retired judge Neil MacLean.

“Suicide truly is one of the greatest taboo topics and some believe it’s best to bury our heads in the sand. Not me,” MacLean said. “There is real fear this is something you can catch, almost like an infection, and the fact that we don’t talk about it makes it feel like something disgraceful has happened in these families, like a sex offender, it brings feelings of shame and anger.”

Former chief coroner and retired judge Neil MacLean
Neil MacLean.

In the last financial year, 579 Kiwis died of suspected suicide - the highest number recorded since MacLean started releasing the provisional figures in 2007/08.

Suicide is now the leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 19 in New Zealand, it takes more lives than car accidents and cancer combined. We have the worst teen suicide rate in the world, well over twice the global average, according to Unicef.

In fact, our rate is so high it raises the entire global average by 0.26 incidents per 100,000 people.


Over the coming weeks the Herald will unveil a number of investigative reports on this issue, including how 40 per cent of our schools don’t feel supported to handle suicidal behaviour and how self-harming teens are clogging our emergency departments.

For the past six months, we have canvassed New Zealand's more than 500 secondary schools, analysed dozens of Official Information Act (OIA) documents, attended suicide prevention meetings across the country and interviewed hundreds of experts, academics, principals, counsellors, grieving family members and those who have attempted suicide and survived.

We heard of teenagers emailing classmates graphic suicide plans, attempting to kill themselves on school grounds and self-harming en masse.

“There’s a misconception that because you are a teacher you can also be a counsellor,” said Kelvin Woodley, principal of Tapawera School in Motueka Valley, about 45 minutes west of Nelson. “We are inadequately resourced to deal with what we deal with on a daily basis.”

At Aorere College in South Auckland, social workers and guidance counsellors meet mental health experts every week to discuss at-risk students. “Every school will be dealing with this to a degree,” said Aorere principal Greg Pierce. “This is a significant issue and it’s not significantly improving.”

Suicide is “not something that just happened in 2012 and now it’s over,” said Kamo High principal Jo Hutt.

“We’re dealing with a young person talking about suicide once a week. Any high school in the country that’s saying they aren’t hearing about kids who want to commit suicide either don’t have counsellors or aren’t listening, because it’s prolific.”

Kamo High principal Jo Hutt

Listen to Jo Hutt

In this year’s Budget the Government pledged $224 million towards mental health which Education Minister Nikki Kaye said “is us saying we need to do more”.

“Successive governments have grappled with this issue for a very long time,” Kaye told the Herald.

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman declined numerous requests for an interview over the past two months. In an email in May, his press secretary said: “The Minister feels that he laid out his views in his speech on mental health last week.”

That speech can be read here.

Northland, a scattered, rugged region fringed by wild beaches and million-dollar baches, is home to Whangarei and 26 small towns.

It is one of the most deprived areas in the country and more than one third of the population is Māori. Suicide rates are 90 per cent higher in areas of high deprivation and the youth suicide rate is 84 per cent higher for Māori than non-Māori.

High unemployment in Northland has led to four generations of welfare dependency, which has bred a gang and drug subculture across the region, said Far North Mayor John Carter.

Many families are living in abject poverty, children don’t go to school and their parents are illiterate and isolated from society, he said.

“We have families where people are living with no hope and no opportunities. When someone feels like they have nowhere to go, one of the consequences is suicide.”

Far North Mayor John Carter

Listen to John Carter

Long before 2012, mental health workers feared the north was ill-equipped to deal with suicide.

Funding was scarce and “suicide prevention was pretty much non-existent”, said Hemaima Tait, nursing director for Te Tai Tokerau Primary Health Organisation.

She started working to connect the disjointed services in 2010 after the suicide of a 19-year-old exposed deep fractures within the region. Some services were so under-resourced they refused to help beyond their own turf, she said.

“The services were frightened and scattered and didn’t know where to go or how to have conversations. We didn’t have a person to channel our concerns to so we took the lead because no one else was.”

Tait instigated training programmes and worked to connect community mental health services to the DHB, to GPs, to at-risk families. Ministry officials told her more funding was coming. “We asked. We said we needed resources for this and that, but we never saw it,” Tait said.

In 2010, four people aged 25 and under took their lives in Northland. Four more in 2011.

In 2012, the first youth to die by suicide in the region took their life on January 9. Then another in February and two more in March.

Colin Taipari-Herewini was the fifth youth suicide, in May. Janaya Nauer - a 16-year-old former Kamo High student - was the sixth. Mia Dunn was the seventh.

Then the Government became involved. Another 12 died after that.

Words and phrases like disjointed families, poverty, violence, teen pregnancy, gangs, conflict, drugs, binge drinking and sexual assault are littered throughout the coronial findings into the 19 suicide cases of 2012.

Mia’s parents split when she was 4; Colin’s when he was still in nappies.

Mia and her siblings were divided among the extended family after her dad moved away and her mother fell ill.

Colin grew up with his aunty, amid a mob of cousins and brothers. At 14, he wore flat caps and liked hanging bandannas from his back pocket.

Colin was cheeky; he used to run away from teachers at school and pull faces at his aunty through the kitchen window. You could always hear him laughing around the house, Waihoura Taipari said.

Colin's grave in Northland Mia's grave in Northland
Colin and Mia's graves in Northland.

He liked to play chess. He liked to cook. He liked to fight - and was often grounded because of it.

His dad, Jock Herewini, recalled when he used to pick his kids up from Taipari’s place for the weekend and how Colin would come outside and say: “Can’t come Dad. Grounded again.”

He found it funny, Herewini said, grinning. “He was a pretty smooth little dude.”

Colin never asked for anything, not even birthday presents. “He was the type of kid who would deal with what he had,” Taipari said.

When he started at Kamo High, Colin told Taipari he needed black school shoes. “It was pretty difficult on the finance side of things at that time and I’d sorted out his uniform and his books and I asked if he could wait a week for the shoes.”

He went outside, covered his sneakers in masking tape, painted them black and said: “It’s all good, aunty. I can last another week in these.”

Brenden Dunn had done jail time for grievous bodily harm by the time his first daughter, Mia, was born in Kawakawa.

He was 24, smoked weed daily and was associated with gangs, but said he never brought drugs or violence back to the house.

“I was a young man back then. I was pretty lost in my mind, in my life, in my drinking,” Dunn said. “But I was never bad to the children. Mia, she was always loved and cuddled.”

Mia was softly spoken, shy with new people and ditsy, in an endearing way.

She wouldn’t leave the house without straightening her hair. She wrote love letters to different boys in her schoolbooks. Every Saturday she played netball and every Sunday she went to church.

Mia Dunn
Mia Dunn
Mia Dunn
Colin Taipari-Herewini Colin Taipari-Herewini

On the day Colin died, Mia rode the bus home with her best friend Paige Dinsdale.

“We were on the bus after school when she told me she wanted to get back together with Colin. She’d dated him for a few months but they’d broken up,” Dinsdale said. “She was hoping they would get back together hours before we found out he died.”

Mia's cousin, Huia Tana, wonders if Mia felt guilty after Colin’s suicide, that she thought he might not have taken his life if they’d stayed together. “I think that’s where a lot of her pain came from,” Tana said.

After Colin’s funeral, Mia called her dad. “I remember talking to her on the phone. I said: ‘It’s all right baby, you’ll be all right. Don’t go and isolate yourself,’” said Dunn.

“I’m all right, Dad,” Mia told him.

But unbeknown to him, she was secretly thinking about ways to die.

When Dunn made it into the intensive care unit after Mia’s suicide attempt on June 12, she was pinned to the bed beneath a tangle of tubes.

“I just said ‘Oh Mia, girl, what are you doing? What have you done!’ Then I just broke down, yea I broke down,” he said.

“Why? Was it me? Was it her? Was it them? It leaves a mystery behind that you can end up dwelling on and beating yourself up on for the rest of your life.”

Things changed after Mia’s death, in a rapid, scrambling way.

An area of Whangarei Hospital was cordoned off for suicidal teens linked to the cluster.

A Ministry of Education trauma team was sent into 26 schools across the region.

The Ministry of Health gave the DHB $200,000 in additional funding, including a 12-month contract for its first suicide prevention coordinator, who, officials said, needed to “be able to hit the ground running”.

Suddenly agencies who had never connected before were sitting around the same table, with some meeting daily. Police and coroners started providing swift updates on suspected suicides to the health and education sectors.

Dell Coyte, then Northland DHB’s project manager of mental health, was asked to send weekly reports to the Ministry of Health.

Dell Coyte's suicide briefing report
One of Dell Coyte's suicide briefing reports obtained by the Herald under the OIA.

“We were working our butts off trying to get everyone together,” Coyte, who has since retired, said. “It was an extremely stressful time for everyone involved.”

Every week between July and October, Coyte sent a report to the ministry covering new suicides in the north.

She sent the reports right up until the police called her to say the latest self-inflicted death was a 10-year-old boy. “I was in a huge meeting and I got the phone call and just sat there with tears pouring down my face. They said, ‘What’s going on?’ and I said, ‘It’s a 10-year-old ... I can’t do this anymore’. I had to walk away, for my own sanity really,” Coyte said.

Dell Coyte, former Northland DHB project manager of mental health

Listen to Dell Coyte

Eight people killed themselves in Northland in October; five were under the age of 23.

It was near the end of that month that then Prime Minister John Key’s office emailed ministry officials seeking “talking points” on the suicide cluster, to prepare for questions from the media, OIA documents show.

Three talking points were signed off by the ministry’s director of mental health Dr John Crawshaw, who had travelled to Northland to assess the crisis several times that year.

Two of the talking points outlined prevention plans under way and the third simply said: “The issues that sit behind these suicides are particularly complex. They are all in the Northland area with the most obvious cluster associated with Kamo, however the situation in Kamo appears to be in hand.”

Ministry officials chose not to elaborate on the situation beyond Kamo. Possibly because beyond Kamo things were not in hand.

Ministry officials chose not to inform the Prime Minister of the 19-year-old who took his life in Whangarei on the 1st or the 22-year-old mother who killed herself in Kaitaia on the 5th. They also left out the 16-year-old who died in Mangonui on the 6th, the 22-year-old soon-to-be father who suicided in Hikurangi on the 13th and the fact that three of these young people were connected to other youths who had died by suicide months earlier. They didn’t mention the 10-year-old boy who took his own life on the 16th, prompting Coyte to step down.

October was “absolutely shocking” in Coyte’s memory.

“They should’ve said there was a major issue happening. The word isn’t issue, it’s crisis,” she said.

In a written response to the Herald, Crawshaw said the decision on how much information to reveal to the Prime Minister, and in turn the public, was complex.

In his own words: “The level of public detail we’re able to provide reflects clinical advice and learnings which balance the needs of ensuring public transparency and keeping the community informed with ensuring we limit the risk of doing additional harm.”

This defence was rubbished by former Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia, who has yet to forget her visits to Northland during 2012. “I get really tired of people butt-covering when it comes to these issues. These kids were let down. The systems let them down,” she said.

“There’s a few of us rather tired of ministries and DHBs ‘managing information’ while people die.”

Two more youths took their lives in Northland in November. Another two in December and then, finally, 2012 was over.

In early 2013, television presenter and comedian Mike King stood before hundreds of students at Northland’s Taipa Area School and canned his prepared speech.

It wasn’t going to work, he realised.

King had been invited up to make the students laugh because things hadn’t been the same since 2012.

Mike King
Mike King.

“I was told there were a whole lot of kids up there in crisis,” King said. “By the time it took me to walk from the back of the hall to the front I could feel the heaviness in the room and I knew jokes wouldn’t work there.”

King spoke off the cuff for an hour about how he grew up with no self-esteem and how he had a voice in his head telling him he was never good enough, was never worthy, was never going to amount to anything.

He noticed the kids started nudging each other and nodding. He could feel the tension in the room shifting to deep recognition.

“For the first time he introduced us to the fact that no one is perfect,” said Ezekiel Raui, who was a Year 11 student at the time, “that his celebrity status doesn’t mean everything's all right, that everyone has problems now and again and bottling it up isn’t a good way to deal with it.”

At his kitchen table that night, Raui wrote about the problems facing kids in the north: "youth aren’t being listened to, no support to speak out, stuffed up organisations unprepared to help".

Raui wrote about the problems facing kids in the north
The problems facing youth in the north identified by Ezekiel Raui in 2012.

He then wrote about possible solutions: “youth workshops, sponsors to help youth support, peer counsellors, student talks to student”.

He gave his notes to King, who said: “I will do everything in my power to make sure this happens.”

Soon after King quit stand-up and started working on bringing Raui’s programme to life.

Those who lived through the 2012 suicide cluster felt a sickening sense of deja vu last year.

Six people aged 25 and under died of suspected suicide within three months in the small northern town of Kaitaia. The deaths stemmed from the same social issues that were at play in 2012 - poverty, broken families, welfare-dependency and loss of hope.

“Young people here grow up real fast and nothing is happening,” said 20-year-old Kaitaia local Mariah Herbert who lost her sister to suicide in 2008, her friend in 2016 and has attempted to take her own life twice. “They see people getting really far in life and look at themselves and say, ‘I can’t do that’. You need money or to look a certain way to get somewhere.

“It’s about feeling useless or not wanted or feeling silent and like nobody sees or hears you. Suicide is the easy way out - or sometimes it feels like it’s the only way out.”

Kaitaia local Mariah Herbert lost her sister to suicide in 2008
Mariah Herbert.

As youth in the north voiced their grief and frustrations in 2016, iwi leader Haami Piripi realised “we hadn’t made that huge difference we thought we’d made in 2012”.

“We worked like hell and learned how to collaborate. But it’s a hard thing to maintain that level of collaboration,” he said. “When one thing is off the table another thing is on, so when the cluster of suicides diminished in 2012, other issues took over and came to the fore.”

Piripi was disappointed some of the officials he worked with closely back in 2012 pulled out of an interview with the Herald for this story, at the 11th hour. He asked one official why.

“He said he didn’t want to talk because he was worried he would be made to look stupid, or like a failure. I just said to him, ‘Well, maybe we were’.

“Maybe we became complacent on this. On the ground, where the rubber meets the road.”

Piripi’s admission was not accepted by Northland DHB.

The inter-agency group created in the wake of Colin and Mia’s deaths is still operating, the suicide prevention coordinator’s role is still being funded and DHB chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain is still updated urgently every time a suicide occurs in the region.

“I don’t think that’s complacent,” Chamberlain said. “But when [suicide] is not quite as acute an issue, there’s not that much focus on it,” he conceded.

With all the socio-economic issues bearing down on Northland, sometimes, Chamberlain said, it can feel like “we’re an ambulance halfway down the cliff”.

There is no denying the amount of effort that has gone into reducing New Zealand’s suicide rate - a black mark against a progressive, democratic country with world-class health systems.

Billions of dollars have been spent on mental health and suicide prevention campaigns in the past decade or so. In 2012 it was $62 million, with an extra $8m targeted towards Māori and Pasifika in 2013 and an additional $224m earmarked in Budget 2017.

In recent weeks the subject of suicide has resurfaced in New Zealand with repeated calls for a national mental health inquiry, the release of the controversial teen suicide Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and Mike King quitting the Government’s suicide prevention panel while publicly ridiculing its draft prevention plan (which will come before Cabinet later this year).

Although King has walked away from his official role, he has not forgotten the promise he made to the youth of Northland in the aftermath of 2012.

As a result, in term one next year a trial programme called Tu Kotahi is expected to be rolled out in four New Zealand schools. The programme, built from the solutions Ezekiel Raui wrote down late one night at his kitchen table in Northland, will equip a core group of 30 students at each school to be mentors and aims to create a culture “where it is cool to korero about the hard stuff”. If successful, it will be extended to 28 schools over the next five years.

“The origin of the programme comes from that time after 2012, of youth feeling isolated and anxious about what would come next,” Raui said. “That’s why I believe in it so much. It comes from us.”

Tu Kotahi is youth helping youth, built from the horror of 2012.

It’s not only grief that unites Brenden Dunn and Jock Herewini. It’s guilt and regret as well.

They weren’t around when their kids were growing up and they’ve both asked themselves if things would’ve been different if they were.

“I should’ve been there for her more. I’ve faced an ensemble of emotions since then; a year of feeling like a failure, a year of rebelliousness against authority, against my family, resentment, anger, hate,” Dunn said.

“The main thing is failure as a father, you just feel like you failed.”

He likes to cry for his dead daughter late at night, usually around 2am and mostly in the shower so he doesn’t wake up his children.

“It’s the times when you’re in the shower is when you’re crying and when the kids are all asleep at 2 in the morning, and they’re deep asleep, is when you’re on the floor snot out of your nose blithering like a little baby because you’re broken-hearted, but no one sees that,” he said.

“No one understands that a father breaks inside and they can’t show it all the time.”

Jock Herewini is a hard man, a man who doesn’t talk about crying.

After his son died, he had Colin’s name tattooed around his neck and grief turned him towards sleeping pills, alcohol and violence.

One night Herewini said he antagonised the police, hoping to be Tasered. “I wanted someone to beat the shit out of me because then the pain would be focused on something else. I was trying to amp them up so they’d hurt me.”

During his interview with the Herald late last year, Herewini wore black sunglasses inside, the entire time. “You’re not going to see me cry,” he said.

Mia’s younger sister Destiny Dunn
Destiny Dunn.

Destiny Dunn, Mia’s younger sister, is now 14 - the same age Mia was when she killed herself.

Destiny is in Year 10 at Kamo High and lives 2km down the road from the house where Colin took his life.

She’s from the same deprived region as Colin and Mia, the same school, the same background.

“I still think about her all the time, it’s hard to think of her being this young,” Destiny said.

“When you sit there and think about it but you’re not able to speak about it, you kind of just get lost in your own thoughts. Sometimes you feel the pressure of not being able to talk and it can feel like you’re bottling it up inside. It’s like no one wants to listen. It’s like no one cares.”

Whatever new suicide prevention programmes are launched next year with the millions of dollars set aside for mental health, it’s come far too late for far too many.

It’s come too late for Colin and Mia. Too late for Jock Herewini and Brenden Dunn.

But it's not too late for Destiny.


Where to get help:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633
  • Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
  • Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
  • Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666
  • Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)