Hear4U is a movement which brings friends, families, and strangers together to support each other in speaking up about men’s mental health and suicide here in the Tairāwhiti.
July 2019 saw a loss that rocked our local forestry community. Krissy Mackintosh remembers her partner coming home early that day with the news that a fellow forestry family had lost their 21 year old son Toby to suicide; she recalls a community in shock.
Krissy had recently discovered her love of making art from dried flora. At a friend’s request she gathered up all of the flowers that had been sent to the Fraser family following their son’s death, dried them, worked them into three heart-shaped wreaths and gave them back to Toby’s family.
In that act of not giving up on those masses of flowers, and instead extending their ability to keep on giving and sharing their message of love and hope, Krissy found the seed for an idea, which was to become the Hear4U movement.
Listening to the outpourings of shock and grief that followed, Krissy recognised herself in so many of the stories about Toby as ‘so outgoing, ‘the happy one’, loads of friends, the last person anyone thought this would happen to…’
Having been in that space multiple times herself, and having survived it; hearing the words, which would supposedly explain it all - the language of depression and anxiety - Krissy began to think more and more about the importance of destigmatising mental health and getting people talking about the stuff that she knew so intimately is a very normal part of life for many of us.
Having lost ten of her own male friends to suicide Krissy decided that the best way to move forward was to “get guys out there, talking about this stuff”. Thinking about the things that have lifted her own spirits at times throughout her own life, like art, exercise and music, she set about creating projects and events to bring people together to understand men's mental health and suicide prevention better, through listening and learning from each other's stories and experiences.
Jo Higgins-Ware and Renee Grant were an integral part of the establishment of Hear4U, which set about creating events to raise funds, and support established foundations, programmes, and charities that were already championing the cause. Connection, healing and education are at the heart of everything Hear4U does, and of course as the name of the movement suggests, the importance of letting people know you are always here to listen.
The Hear4U team encourages us to keep asking the kinds of questions that let friends and family know that we are listening “Are you okay? Do you want to talk? Do you know how much I love you? Want to catch up? What’s up bro? You seem distracted.. You don’t seem yourself lately..”
The first event was the Hear4U Exhibition and Auction, in which men modelled dried floral wreaths and an auction raised over $53K for the Movember appeal. To date, this is the highest amount raised for a foundation in Australasia. The donation helped fund ‘Headstart’, an educational programme that teaches men from all walks of life the importance of understanding mental health, wellbeing, and suicide prevention throughout the country.
Since then a Hear4U Trailer built by Toby Fraser’s best mate Griffin Law, which went to Speedway events all around the country advocating for men to speak up on suicide prevention during Mental Health Awareness Week last year. The Good Blokes Xmas Appeal brought together photography and art with local builder Steven Huzzy modelling floral wreaths, another event which achieved some epic raising of funds as well as awareness.
Just recently 140 people ran the Taupo Marathon for Hear4U. Almost everyone in the team had lost someone to suicide. Many had lost multiple people, across generations, and most of them male.
Krissy was recognised for her contribution to men’s health in the community at this year’s Eastland Forestry Awards, receiving ‘The Good Deed Award’. It’s not an easy space to work in, but it’s clear from the richness of relationships that have formed amongst the Hear4U team, which continues to learn from each other, advocate for and work with over 100 men and their families, from all walks of life, that Hear4U is making a difference here in the Tairāwhiti.
The group are in the early stages of becoming a registered charity and developing a new website, which will allow them to continue raising awareness, sharing stories and promoting their events and projects as well as enable people to support the cause. Krissy has also embarked on a book about Hear4U.
Story by Sarah Cleave
Photos 1. by Sarah Cleave, 2. supplied by Krissy MacIntosh