Preventing youth suicide is a cause close to Brendon Johnston’s heart following the loss of one of his students at just 23-years-old and his own earlier run-in with suicide.
Not one to stand still, the Mt Maunganui boxing club owner is hosting a black tie boxing event called Fight the Fight: Against Youth Suicides on Saturday, November 25 with the aim of raising $10,000 or more for Lifeline.
The Lifeline and Tautoko suicide helplines support an average of 15 to 20 people around New Zealand at high risk of suicide or self-harm every day.
In the 2022-23 financial year, the 20-24 age group had the highest rate of suspected self-inflicted deaths in the country with a rate of 20.1 per 100,000 New Zealanders. Suicide rates for Māori tend to be higher.
Lifeline receives no Government funding and so the support from events like this is vital says Presbyterian Support Northern GM Fundraising, Lisa Rudolphe.
“Lifeline saves lives and has a long history of being there when people really need someone to talk to. It’s important work and the more support we receive, the more calls we can answer.”
The main reason Brendon Johnston decided to host the fundraising event stems back to 2018 when a student he was training took his own life. Having seen him the day before at the gym, Brendon was completely blindsided and had no idea of what was going on for him at the time.
Two years earlier, Brendon Johnston had his own brush with suicide.
“I used Lifeline when I was struggling with depression and considering suicide. It was after the loss of my dad. I just felt I needed to talk to someone and take the weight off my shoulders. I felt tired - exhausted. I wanted to stop thinking.
“Lifeline really helped me out. I spoke to several counsellors at the time. They lent a friendly ear and helped me have faith that things would get better, urged me to see how I felt tomorrow and to reach out to friends and family.
“I took that advice and spoke to my sister who was awesome. She understood how I felt about my dad, made it clear I could talk to her at any time and suggested that I needed to do something good for me. She suggested a change in environment so I followed that advice and went travelling through South America. When I came home, I shifted from Auckland to Tauranga where I love living and started coaching boxing – also something I love.
“Knowing that there’s someone to turn to like Lifeline when things get on top of you is so important for our young people because a lot of them don’t know how to deal with stress,” says Johnston.
All the boxers in the Fight the Fight: Against Youth Suicides show want to raise money for the cause and most of them also have their own mental health story.
The evening opens with a performance by the lead singer of Tiny Giant and includes a silent auction with a prizes of signed limited edition photos of Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson.
People are coming from all around New Zealand to compete. There will be 15 fights, some including fighters who will be jumping into the ring for the first time. Tickets are available from https://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/fight-the-fight-against-youth-suicides-tickets-680392561467