Local workplace Suicide Prevention Programme has instant impact

The loss of a work mate at local business Tumu Timbers a few years ago has led to the development of a local-led workplace suicide prevention programme.

Tumu Timbers general manager James Truman with the support of colleague Bronnie Coory and Hawke’s Bay DHB Suicide Prevention Coordinator Kerry Gilbert have worked with Caroline Wilson of A-OK New Zealand to create the Mates 4 Life Hawke’s Bay workplace suicide prevention programme.

“We sadly lost a work colleague which prompted us to get some support from a national suicide prevention provider but then we quickly saw a growing need for a locally delivered programme.

“Sadly Hawke’s Bay has a high rate of suicide and unfortunately many work places across the region are impacted by the devastating loss of a work mate,” James said.

Recently the Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall announced that there were 35 suspected suicides in Hawke’s Bay in 2020, second only to 2019 when there were 38 recorded. Those two numbers are the highest they have been since 2009.

A team of 20 local facilitators have already delivered a pilot of the Mates4Life awareness programme to 364 employees at Tumu Group (including Tumu Timbers and Tumu ITM Hawke’s Bay stores) and Bostock New Zealand.

As part of the ongoing sustainability of the programme 49 staff at the two businesses have been trained as Connectors, a support role that is there for fellow workers who may be mentally struggling and in need of support. A further 11 staff have been trained as Safety Aiders to support Connectors and with intervention skills to respond to a person with suicidal thoughts by implementing a safety plan and to link them to other supports.

“We had a vision for a programme that would be long-term, sustainable, no barriers and free.

“We only need one intervention for the Mates4Life programme to be a success and if we can ensure that a workplace and a family home aren’t hit by the traumatic loss of a colleague or loved one, that’s our measure of success,” said James.

Bostock New Zealand Group HR Manager Rhonda Simpson said the training had a positive impact with staff.

“The feedback from the team is that the session was great, relatable and important. It has certainly raised awareness and started some pretty deep conversations here. We really appreciate being included in the pilot and hope to stay involved as Mates4Life is rolled out to more organisations. I know there is a lot of interest from the horticulture industry for this awareness training”

A Charitable Trust – Mates of Hawke’s Bay Charitable Trust has been formed to secure funding and to coordinate the delivery of the programme.

So far funding has come from the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Primary Industries and Royston Health Trust. Eastern Institute of Technology provides the trust with a professional level of training course evaluation.

Following an announcement of a wellbeing support package for fruit growers facing tough times earlier in the year by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, both the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) have got behind the programme.

Nick Story, Director of Rural Communities and Farming Support at MPI, said the programme has the potential to reach every corner of the Hawkes Bay region.

“Because the Mates4Life programme has such a strong local flavour it will appeal to all sorts of businesses, including those in the primary sector. The foundations have been laid and we are very supportive of the programme which we see going from strength to strength.”

The Mates of Hawke’s Bay Charitable Trust is chaired by James with fellow trustees Bronnie Coory of the Tumu Group, Damon Harvey, a Hastings District Councillor and former chair of Sport Hawke’s Bay and Conrad Waitoa, founder of Inspire In Education. Ingrid Squire, lawyer and Partner at Gifford Devine joins the trustees to form the Mates4Life steering group. Baker Tilly Staples Rodway support the financial administration.

The coordination and delivery of the programme is supported by a working group consisting of James, Bronnie, Kerry and Caroline along with Tyson Ataera, Unison Wellbeing Lead and H&S Advisor and Kylie Truman, Tumu Group.

If your business is interested in Mates4Life, visit

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