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