Recent NZME documentary Fighting the Demon spoke of New Zealand as being “one of the most lucrative meth markets in the world. Massive mark-ups mean we are the target of the most dangerous drug cartels. Meth is easier to buy than marijuana and New Zealanders spend nearly $1.4 million on methamphetamine every single day according to police analysis and drug testing of wastewater”. This affects not just those on benefits or lower income, but across all socio-economic groups and professions.
For every addict who is hurting there is a husband or wife, mother, father, brother or sister also hurting. This needs to be addressed and whanau supported, not only for ourselves, but because sometimes we are part of the problem.
Four years ago after a long painful journey with a meth addicted son, I moved to Tauranga and met Ros who had also been on a journey, but had been helped by local policeman Lindsay Red Smith. We decided to start up a group for other parents and enlisted Red’s support in organising a meeting for whanau.
We had 60 people turn up to that first meeting in June 2016 and it was so obvious that people were crying out for help. Not only did they not know where to access help, but often it was limited, with agencies stretched in attempting to help the addicts let alone the suffering families. And so Brave Hearts began.
Our aim is to Educate, Advocate, Support and Counsel. We want the stigma around substance use broken, the subject openly talked about and more resources made available for both whanau and addicts.
We currently facilitate every month two meetings in the Bay of Plenty, two in Auckland and one in Hamilton, where speakers educate and members with lived experience support and help one another. There are plans for the first South Island meeting to begin in September this year in the Motueka/Nelson region.
We have one-on-one free of charge sessions with a Brave Hearts educator who will sit with your family and tailor-make a plan that will teach you how to cope with the daily terrifying trauma of living with, or being close to, a meth addict.
We have an 0508 bravehearts (0508 272 834) freephone if you are distressed and need to talk, and we can make referrals to local agencies best suited to your needs. There is also a website bravehearts.nz, a Facebook public page and a closed group where members support each other.
We also facilitate Awareness Seminars with professional speakers and have done four of these in the Bay of Plenty area to date.
Brave Hearts works so well because we have all been through the experience. When we offer advice people will know we are speaking from experience as well as the ‘head knowledge’. Our journeys have equipped us to understand and be effective inhelping with total empathy. I had to learn the hard way and the long way. We now want to pass on what we have learnt to others in the hope that their sufferings may be alleviated.
If you wish to donate to our organisation to assist our work in all areas, please visit bravehearts.nz/donate.We are a registered charity and tax receipts can be given for all charitable donations.
Erin O’Neill, founder and executive director of Brave Hearts NZ, is the mother of a son who has struggled with an addiction to methamphetamine. Because of her own experience she is passionate about supporting other families in similar situations and providing educational seminars for all whanau, particularly parents of secondary school children. Originally from Auckland, with a background in business ownership, events and marketing, Erin is currently working full time on Brave Hearts.