I have a half-finished Friday linky but no stomach to finish it. Just took a call from my mother who saw this in the paper, and let me know a young man I knew had killed himself.

In my last year of high school, Pio was just starting. I was a school prefect assigned to his class, and he was in the basketball team I coached with my friend Matt. But I actually met him the year before, on a bushwalk organized for my year and his, to build some connections between incoming pupils and impending school leaders. We did most of the walk together, forging an instant connection. I can’t remember what on earth we talked about but he was smart, funny, and great company. I was delighted when I ended up assigned to his class the next year.

It was May of that year that Pio’s family was devastated by tragic violence. Everything collapsed around him. The school made some efforts, with the basketball team at the forefront – but my fellow coach and the staff liaison were well out of our depth. I don’t know what else happened around him then. We were all worried.

The next year, I was at university but with my friend kept coaching this young basketball team. Pio was by all appearances back to his old self. Neither of us were convinced, but it was good to see him apparently doing okay. After that year we lost touch. I ran into him in his final year of school, where he was himself recognized as a school leader, and then I did think he’d come right despite his awful experience. But that was just me being naive.

Last time I saw Pio was at a funeral in 2006, one of his classmates from that same class I was prefect for. He was on good form and we had a great chat. On leaving I kicked myself for not trading numbers with him. I’ve thought several times since that I should look him up, particularly since moving back to Lower Hutt. But I never did.

It sounds like his mental wellbeing starting slipping not long after that last time I saw him. It sounds very sad. And apart from feeling upset, I feel angry and helpless. I look around this bloody country and all I see is more and more pressure being applied to those who are the most vulnerable. At the same time, what support we’ve managed to put in place is being undermined and hollowed out or just taken away. There’s nothing civilised about what we’re becoming. If our society is worth anything at all it should have found a way to help Pio, and his family two decades ago.

We have to do better than this.

Peace be with you, Pio

9 thoughts on “RIP Pio”

  1. Hey bro, this is a sad and horrible story from my home town. Mental health care is something that needs a lot of work everywhere. You’re right, we need to work together as a society to look after each other. Thinking of you, and of home.


  2. Thanks James and Steph. I still feel pretty down about this but good people being good people sure does take the edge off.

  3. I think I remember Pio. Was he in that third from/prefect camp we went on? Dude my thoughts are with ya, it sucks big time. I concur with James, society needs to change back home, the sweeping it under the carpet mentality does not work. I have no solutions but it is worrying that the government is not doing what it should.

  4. Yeah he was at that camp Mr 2trees, but I didn’t go to it – I was out sick at the time sadly. I’m pretty sure you did know him there though, something definitely rings true in the memory banks about that.

  5. Morgue, I’m so sorry to hear about this. Sounds like you were a good friend and mentor to him. There are so many vulnerable people in our society, and so many of them are overlooked and invisible.

  6. Oh Morgue, that is so sad. I am so sorry for you and Pio and his family. And I very much agree we need to do better and change the tide that is turning right now. Compassion not economic reductionism!

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