Content warning: This article contains discussions of mental health and suicide.
She will make her hometown premiere at Baycourt Monday, and it will be a special night for everyone.
“My whole family is coming,” says Hailey Trappit. “I am very excited.” Proud parents Geoff and Anita and sisters Sophie, 14, and seven-year-old Ashlee will join friends, old school acquaintances and many others.
But the orchestra pit will be empty, there will be no music, no dancing, no carefully rehearsed dramatic lines – just a brave, beautiful, bubbly and articulate Papamoa 17-year-old on the stage, under the spotlight, telling the world how she went to the brink, but fought back and won.
“I am looking forward to it because I haven’t hidden my struggles from anyone,” says Hailey. “I have been really open about it, and I think it will be good for them to see how far I have come.”
Hailey Trappitt has a lead role in comedian and mental health educator Mike King’s ‘I am Hope’ tour – she’s one of three youth ambassadors travelling the country on 50cc Suzuki motor scooters promoting mental health awareness.
“It’s been a real eye opener,” she says. “It is just amazing how open and responsive kids are.”
She tells the story of two Timaru 13-year-olds who approached her. “They were friends and both struggling with suicidal thoughts. It just broke my heart because I could see myself in them.”
The “myself” Hailey could see was a deeply troubled teenager who once cut herself so deeply she nicked an artery and needed 28 stitches - a teenager “stuck in a psych ward battling her mind every day”, a teenager afraid of living and afraid of dying, a teenager who danced dangerously with suicide, a teenager who went so close to the brink on so many occasions.
Hailey drew on those experiences to help the Timaru buddies out of their dark place. “It was the fact they were able to open up to me and Mike – we gave them our cellphone numbers and got them in touch with some good professional advice.
“It’s a privilege to have this sort of impact on some young lives.”
Hailey’s is a preventative action – stopping kids from heading down the same damaging, tortuous track that she did.
“I reckon if I had been their age and someone came into my school talking mental health and normalising it, I could have been spared a whole lot of pain and struggle.”
But something good is emerging from those dark days.
“I am about helping people – and while these past years have been horrible for me, the tour gives them some meaning and worth, I guess.”
When Hailey Trappitt steps from the gloom of her recent past into the glare of the spotlight on Monday evening, she will have one simple message.
“I will talk about my struggles, things people did that weren’t helpful while understanding they meant well, and things that did help.”
She itemises things that didn’t help – like being told to “think positively”, being told “it’s all in your head”, being told “other people are worse off”, being told “you have nothing to worry about”, being told to “just be happy”, being told “only weirdos hurt themselves”, being told “you are attention seeking” and dealing with people who minimised her struggles, people who made the problem about them and people that told her “this is your choice”.
Then she lists 10 things people could have done to help – like validating her feelings, the simple act of just listening, being reassured that people wouldn’t leave her, knowing that sometimes all she needed was a hug, someone to be with her until some of the “shittiness” passes, reassurance her that it will pass, something to distract her, the offer of support to find additional help, someone to keep asking if she is okay until she says something other than “fine”, and reassurance that she’s good to be with and is loved.
“It’s that simple,” says Hailey.
When The Weekend Sun spoke to Hailey Trappitt she was getting some therapy - in a Palmerston North pet shop. “I have two cats and two dogs at home in Papamoa and I miss them dreadfully.”
The “I am Hope” tour spent two weeks scootering through the South Island. And when they have finished the North Island leg, they will have visited around 45 schools and spoken to 20,000 people with a message about openness and listening without judgement when people come to them seeking help.
“We’re not just aimed at kids in crisis, we’re also aimed at friends and family around those in trouble and how they can help.”
Like those who will be in the audience at Baycourt on Monday night. “They are the people who were with me before I got sick, while I was sick and now while I am coming out the other side,” says Hailey. “I am really looking forward to all of this.”
New Zealand has the unenviable record of having the highest teen suicide rates in the developed world. And Mike King and his three young ambassadors, all with their own stories of mental health, will attempt to shake off the stigma and myths surrounding mental health at Baycourt on Monday, March 26 at 7pm. It’s open to all ages and admission is free. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE TO GET HELP
Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). For people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. Or text 8691 for free.
Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP).
Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. Or text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email email@example.com.
Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. For those aged 18 and under. Calls between 4pm and 9pm will be answered by specially-trained teenage counsellors.
0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline - 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.