Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Mike Puru talks about losing a colleague to suicide

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The Edge was fairly new in Hamilton, it had only been going about three years.

I had joined as the night jock there. Butt Ugly Bob, or Brian Reid as...

as we called him, Butt Ugly Bob, and he made no bones about that because he was...

you know, an unfortunate looking fella. But he loved it, he really embraced that name.

He was doing breakfast with Jay-Jay at the time, when I was doing nights.

Jay-Jay used to tell me stories about how hed always say,

Dont worry Jay-Jay, everythings under control. The whole shows sorted!’

and she was quite organised so shed hate that because she likes, you know,

everything written out and everything sorted.

And hed just turn up in the morning and just make magic.

We were based in Hamilton and we were just a Hamilton radio station at that stage.

The good thing with radio is that, you know, thered be events that youd have to go and do,

singled out parties at the Outback Inn in Hamilton,

and all the staff would come along and everyone would have a really good time,

you know, wed learn about each other, wed drink, wed have a good time.

You know, we were all very supportive of each other.

You knew everyones girlfriends, boyfriends, it was good, good times.

It was a Saturday. Butt Ugly Bob and I and my boss, Leon

were supposed to be opening a new Time Out Centre in Hamilton.

Id turned up with Leon, my boss, Butt Ugly Bob nowhere to be seen,

but that was usual, you know, he was a bit aloof, so everybody thought, ‘I wonder where he is.’

We started doing the Time Out opening. We rang Bob a couple of times, got no reply,

so we just thought he must have had a big night, and we packed up our gear and we went back to work

and I always remember the poor part-timer on air on the Saturday.

I was sitting at reception reading the newspaper after putting all the gear away

and she comes out to me and she goes, ‘Mike, Ive got Bobs girlfriend on the phone, hes dead.’

I said, ‘What?’ She goes, ‘Ive got Bobs girlfriend on the phone, shes telling me hes dead.’

And, you know, I can remember kind of just hanging up the phone and sitting down on the couch again

trying to work out what was happening.

When you hear those things you dont kind of think its real, so you kind of like need back-up.

So I rang Leon my boss straightaway, and then he phoned the girlfriend

and it kind of just, you know, started going round and round like that.

On the Sunday afternoon our CEO at the time, our big boss at the radio,

he went into work and he recorded a little announcement.

He just said, ‘Over the weekend The Edge lost a really valued team member.

Butt Ugly Bob will always be remembered for the fun things that he did on the air.

Please give our staff time to grieve as we work through this,

and appreciate your messages of support and condolences.’

And that played pretty much every fifteen minutes, maybe, like a commercial.

The problem that that caused was that we were quite a station known for pranks

so people, you know, for some unknown reason a lot of people thought it was just a prank

which was a bit gut-wrenching, so it took a while for them to realise that it was actually happening.

I guess for people that listened to the radio station

it was kind of the same reaction that I got personally, you know.

And it was on the news, I remember it being on the news on the Sunday night.

I remember picking up the paper, the Waikato Times on the Monday and it was on the front page.

I remember on the Tuesday walking down the street to get some lunch

and I remember people looking at you and they had a real sense of sadness in their eyes,

but they... you know, they wanted to say something to you but they didnt want to, at the same time.

I think I did want people to come and ask me because I think there was...

there was that utter confusion, you know.

How can someone who, on the Friday morning, delivered a really amazing breakfast show

and talked about surfing in the weekend, end his life, take his own life just like that.

I think I wanted people to, you know, to talk to me about it,

and I wanted to talk to them about it so we could get on with some sort of normality in our lives,

because at the end of the day we all had to go back to work, you know, the radio just doesnt stop.

It was a nice service and his family was there, and work, I must admit, had done a great job

in taking control of the funeral and flying the family up and, you know, really taking care of everything.

And then we were out on the Friday night and I can remember

there was like this queue of people formed at the pub,

theyd formed a line just to come up and say, ‘Hey, sorry’.

It was like, ‘Well its not your fault.' It wasnt our fault. But, yeah.

And we all asked ourselves those questions, you know,

shouldve we have noticed something at the staff drinks on Friday, you know.

Shouldve we made a... you know, a bigger effort on the Saturday to get hold of him,

but people are responsible for their own lives.

I think people at our station dealt with it in two different ways.

You could have either put on your brave performance face, your cloak.

Or maybe with The Edge there was a few people there that realised

that it was maybe another connection you could have with your audience in terms of dealing with grief

and dealing with the loss of a loved one, and actually realising that that happens in life.

For me, I maybe buried myself in work a little bit and maybe tried to get a little bit too involved

to try to forget what was happening and try and be happy again.

I would have been early twenties, so, you know, I...

I wanted to be there a lot at work just to, you know, keep the ship going so to speak.

We had a little office and it was set up like... it was like a shrine actually,

you know, there was just flowers and things arriving all the time, sympathy cards

and they just kept coming, and, you know, we left them all there for that week.

But I took it upon myself on the Saturday to clear it all out

because I thought ok, you know, weve had a week, everyones coming back to work.

I... you know, every time you walked past that office youd think about it again.

I just did it without asking anyone, but, you know,

I mean it was just, you know, people dealing with grief I guess, that was my thing.

Not once over that week was it ever mentioned that he had committed suicide.

I think the papers, you know, the way that they word things made people realise what had happened,

and apart from that statement saying that wedlostsomebody over the weekend, you know,

there was never really a flat-out statement that said exactly what had happened.

We didnt have a discussion on the radio about what had happened and let people call in or anything,

I think it was sort of all done off-air, that sort of stuff.

It makes you question what was going on in his head.

It makes you question what was going on in your head, were there signs that you could have picked up.

Why on the Friday night when he said, ‘Ill see you down at the pub

did I not go down and see him at the pub, you know, you do all theif onlys’, ‘if onlys’...

If only we had gone around and got him out of bed on that Saturday morning to open Time Out

then, you know, maybe any of that wouldnt have happened.

So I think the grief becomes more of a... you kind of maybe feel responsible a little bit.

We were quite popular with young kids, and, you know,

its something you dont want them to even have to think about.

I mean if hed been hit by a car and died, I think even...

you know, that would have been unfortunate but it would have been an accident.

Suicide didnt feel like an accident to me, it didnt feel like it was that.

Its like something you can prevent, I guess.

For me, it made me far more aware of making sure that throwaway comments

in my work colleagueslives about personal situations were taken a little bit more seriously.

And you can always laugh and joke with them at the time in the environment,

but Im the type of guy – "Im the type of guy" –

no, but I do, and this is a reflection of what happened,

but Im the type of guy that would discretely send a little email

and go, you know, ‘Ah, that little dig before, you know, are you ok?’

or, you know, ‘Ok, so youve just broken up, are you sweet-as, bro?’

you know, I just... because I dont want that to happen again.

The day that it happened and the day that news started spreading we had a meeting point.

We were told that if we wanted to we were welcome to go to Jay-Jays house.

Where everyone went, ironically, you know,

because everyone just wanted to be with each other, so thats important, to have a meeting place.

I think being open, too, about funeral arrangements and stuff, talking to your staff about, you know,

the families, whats happening, what the family want as well.

Because we made sure we did that, you know, quite... quite...

I... I was really pleased with the company, they did, they talked us through the funeral arrangements,

they were really blatant with what they said they were doing to help the family,

asked us for input into anything if we wanted, you know, stuff done.

I think having a wake was really important as well, and work made sure that that happened.

But then I think, you know, the checks as well afterwards,

like a couple of months afterwards everyone needs to sit down, and they need to...

you know, they need to reflect on whats happened because, as I said earlier,

its business as usual, you know, its the worst thing about it I guess

is that [claps hands fast] everyone else has to go back to work the next day

so you can, you know, you can forget in a couple of months that this

rather traumatic thing happened and youre sad about it.

So its good to... to come together and just make sure that youre not feeling responsible for it,

and that you maybe do have some checks in places in your workplace where you can see the signs.

We make sure every anniversary of his death we do something, you know,

we mention him or we do something for him.

I often think about where hed be now in radio, because The Edge certainly has grown,

you know, I mean its taken off, that radio station.

And we have a great time and were big... you know, were a big radio station.

Would he be like another Paul Henry now, you know, he was just that type of guy, he was very unique.

In some respects I dont think a lot of people realise the sort of intensity

that you might have with a work colleague, because we were like a family, you know.

It is like a second family, especially when youre so young.

Sadness is a thing I dont like, and I dont like seeing people sad

because then I think well its too late now, isnt it, were all sad now, too late.

Ive been at that radio station now for seventeen years,

and a lot of people just have no idea that any of that happened.

It will be a part of our workplace forever, that... that situation,

and were a fun, happy, poppy radio station that makes people laugh every morning.

So, you know, for that... for suicide to happen within your own ranks I think really...

really made you realise that it can happen anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

It doesnt matter what youre doing.

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