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mental health

How I Survived Suicide By Cop

New Zealand actor Rob Mokaraka has taken his darkest moment and turned it into a play to help others dealing with depression.

by Rob Mokaraka; as told to James Borrowdale
09 January 2018, 4:07am

Actor Rob Mokaraka engineered a suicide attempt during which he provoked the Police to shoot him outside his Auckland home. Below, in his own words, are the events of that day, and some of the things he has learned while touring the country with a play based on them.

I’ll boil it down for you. In 2009, I had undiagnosed depression—I thought I was the only crazy person on the planet. I was feeling incredibly suicidal, and I thought I needed to die that day.

I was triggered from a bad relationship breakup and that was an emotional trigger to something much deeper. I call it “the storm”. And then I was in the storm of depression and you don’t know which way is up or down, because when you’re feeling that storm and that weight of suicidal thoughts it’s hard to know where you are in the world. Shame, guilt, and failure started swirling around me.

When you’re swirling in those suicidal thoughts you think you are doing someone a favour when in fact you’re causing more trauma—that’s how crazy this sickness is.

I called the Police. I had a meat cleaver and a soup ladle wrapped up in a tea towel. I provoked them to shoot me. They basically said, don’t take another step. I took another step, and that’s when I was shot. When you’ve been there, you know how scary that space is. That place is terrifying.

Rob Mokaraka performs 'Shot Bro—Confessions of a Depressed Bullet'

I realised I had made a terrible mistake when I had a burning, searing bullet inside of me, burning up my internal organs.

[I didn’t die] but my body and mind was traumatised from multiple surgeries. I was trying to figure out exactly what had happened to me. I’m a writer/actor so I started doing all these writings in hospital. I’m in pain every day, so I’m very present. I’ve been hiding for many years not knowing what this swirling thing was, which is depression. Shot Bro—Confessions of a Depressed Bullet evolved from these writings. Through the unpacking of the script and my life, we found a cool way and a safe way to do this show so it educates families on what to watch out for and to know what it’s like for someone living with depression.

We’re in a culture of repression and suppression so to talk about your emotions is vulnerability—I’ve been taught that growing up. Harden the fuck up. Get on with shit. Don’t talk about your feelings and emotions. And when you’ve been conditioned like this you feel like you cannot express yourself safely without being judged and so people bottle this shit up. I’ve had multiple suicidal thoughts running through my head most of my life but I suppressed it.

Everyone is hiding bro. We’re hiding behind our art form, we’re hiding behind our job, our uniform. I’m just one of many. Look at our suicide stats.

If someone had spoken in my family that there was depression in it then perhaps I would’ve known I wasn’t the only one. When I opened the show publically, my family turned up, and then my family started to admit some things. When my own cousin kills himself a year before my attempt I realise it’s all connected; it’s intergenerational.

It’s not a magical cure. I’m not a therapist, but my story seems to resonate with many people and we have a little forum after each show just to discuss and share as community. That is the real healing part of Shot Bro, to be honest. The show just opens up this hallowed ground that we’re scared to talk about and then after that the real healing starts because people go, “Wow, thank you for revealing that.”

I’ve realised that this is an epidemic. That suicide is throughout the country. That everyone has been touched by suicide. We all know that the system is flawed; that’s common knowledge. Every community I go to, it seems like they’re just waiting for permission to talk. That’s what it feels like. We just need love, and we just need to be listened to. We cant change the past, but we can change the present. We are worth it and we truly deserve love.

Need to talk?
Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Rob's performs Shot Bro: Confessions of a Depressed Bullet at Auckland Live Summer in the Square, February 3.