A talented Northland dancer is using her skill and drive to provide support to the youthful population of Kaikohe.
25-year-old Bo-Deene Stephens chose to return from a flourishing career in Australia to work alongside Kaikohe youth in an effort to help reduce the high number of suicides in the Northland region.
Stephens has established a suicide prevention group in Kaikohe called Raise Awareness Youth Night (R.A.Y.N). The group meets once a fortnight to participate in positive learning activities and also provides youth with an opportunity to listen to motivational speakers.
While youth suicide is a nationwide issue, it has directly impacted her own whānau which is why she is eager to work with youth. She explains, “There is a lot of mamae in our town, we’ve had about five from up North that have taken their own lives and one was one of my first cousin.”
This year’s Annual Provisional Suicide Statistics show that 28 people committed suicide in the Northland region in the years 2014/2015. Chief Coroner Judge Marshall said at the time, it was disappointing the drop in suicides observed last year had not continued.
More and more locals have come together to show support towards the R.A.Y.N group. Stephens says, “We’ve had parents bring in food for our raise awareness classes, big bulks of food. We’ve had a lot from the community itself. The Runanga had funded us a bit of money for our opening.”
Besides raising suicide awareness, Stephens also teaches dance to kids as young as 4 years old through to adults. She hopes her dance classes can be seen as an positive alternative for troubled youth living in Kaikohe.
“It’s a chance to give our people hope and uplift each other as a community.”
Her background in dancing has seen her gain top of the line experience with the likes of Tight Eyez and Parris Goebel while living in Australia. Now she wants to share those teachings with youth back in Kaikohe.
“My heart is here at home, I just want to bring it all back here to Kaikohe. It is growing up here in the North, but there are only classes in Kerikeri, Kawkawa and just that our kids in Kaikohe aren’t able to get there. So just to have one right in the centre of Kaikohe for the kids here is the best thing,” says Stephens.
The long-term goal for Stephens is to continue raising suicide awareness in the area and to hopefully gain more funding to further her dance classes.
If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance there are a range of services available, there is a free resource and information service under the Mental Health Foundation on (09) 623 4812.
• Lifeline - 0800 543 354
• Depression Helpline (8 am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757
• Healthline - 0800 611 116
• Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
• Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org