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Workplace suicide prevention programme delivers to over 2500 workers

The region’s Workplace suicide prevention programme Mates4Life has had an epic two years since it was launched in October 2021. Mates4Life programme coordinator Bronnie Coory says although the programme has gone from strength to strength delivering to over 45 local businesses and 2500 employees, it has highlighted the need and desire for more training in our community when it comes to suicide prevention and awareness.

She says the team has grown reflect the demand to ensure the message is being delivered to businesses across Te Matau-a-Māui. “In the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, we wanted to do more to say thank you and show support to those that had been affected or were involved in the clean-up, whilst also checking in on their mental wellbeing – so ‘Kai & Kōrero was born’.”

With the help of sponsors NZ Red Cross, Beard Brothers, HB Foundation, Evergreen Foundation, Tumu Group, MPI and the Napier Taupō Music Festival; Mates4Life has been able to load up its BBQ trailer and head into those workplaces. “With full bellies, we remind everyone to check in on themselves, their mates, and to reflect on the positives seen out and about in the community. Mates4Life offers a 4-stage programme that is free to all local businesses.

The first is the Safety Aider training. Bronnie says the Safety Aiders gain valuable skills around effective communication to enable them to help someone who may be in distress, keep them safe and get the right supports around them. Recently Mates4Life welcomed Hawke’s Bay Toyota including its branches in Taupo, Rotorua and Eastland Toyota into the fold.

Bronnie says once a workplace has its Safety Aiders trained, a one-hour Awareness Talk for all staff is held to give a high-level overview of what signs to look out for and what to do if someone is not coping and maybe having suicidal thoughts. Following on from the Awareness Talk is the Connector training.

This is aimed at workplaces that have multiple sites eg, orchards. The Connector comes away with the knowledge and skills to keep someone safe until a Safety Aider or other support arrives. Recently Pan Pac Forest Products, who have been a big supporter of the Mates4Life programme, have had their Connectors complete the workshop. The last is Grower training, aimed at HR / Management and Directors, and this is all about how to support someone returning to work after being affected by suicide, such as an attempt or having been grieved by suicide.

Mates4Life run refresher courses with the above training to make sure everyone stays up to date. Being the first workplace to enlist Mates4Life, Tumu Timbers have just completed their refresher. “Our goal is to keep on top of the training, and providing ongoing support and refresher courses as new staff arrive and others move on.

“The skills learnt from the Safety Aider workshop have had an incredible impact on some companies already – with staff members from Napier Port noting that their ability to be more empathetic with staff and contractors has greatly improved their work environment.”

In early July Mates4Life hosted its inaugural Safety Aider Forum at the Toi Toi Arts & Events Centre in Hastings. Bronnie says this was where Mates4Life got to showcase our existing community who had taken the time to train with us, to enable them to network amongst themselves, gain some extra tools and generally just show our thanks for their mahi out and about in Te Matau-a-Māui. The event was a fabulous success, with over 60 trained Safety Aiders taking time out of their busy schedules to come and join us. Inspirational speaker Korrin Barrett talked about resilience and determination when faced with adversity, and Andrew McGarrol from Nautical Counselling spoke about what a counsellor is and what to expect from a counselling session. The event was MCed by local legend and Hastings Ambassador Henare O’Keefe.

A guest panel followed – where the audience got to ask their burning questions from Kerry Gilbert, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at Te Whatu Ora; Caroline Wilson, CEO of A-OK NZ
(Mates4Life Programme Provider). Shane Heaton from our Community Partner Isaac’s Plumbing, Pumping & Electrical; Andrew McGarrol and our own Tyson Ataera, Mates4Life Kaiwhakahaere/Lead Facilitator. All up, none of the above could have been achieved without the ongoing support of our community funders. The latest to come on board is the team at Isaac’s.

We are eternally grateful for how much support they have shown us by fully integrating our programme into their workplace as well as becoming a sponsor. Mates4Life is a not-for-profit, and to continue our mahi creating a life-saving community here in Hawke’s Bay we need your support.

To find out more, visit to become a sponsor, donate or to have us come and train your workplace.