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Blind hero's experience the driver
Man with a mission: Jim Morunga.
By CLAIRE HAMLIN
A village kid'' who is now a Napier
community leader, Jim Morunga
was initially reluctant to accept a
nomination for the Kiwibank Local
Now a finalist, the Napier man
said the work he had done over the
last 30 years for the disabled and
on suicide prevention, had been
with support and help from others.
I didn't know I'd been nomi-
nateduntilIgotanemail. . .it
a bit to absorb,'' he said.
It's not a single-minded mission
and hopefully those who have been
a part of what I do, or have done,
will consider that they are a part of
that as well.''
The nomination paid tribute to
Mr Morunga's work with disabled
Maori and his advocacy for guide
dogs for the blind in Maori and
Pacific Island communities.
More recently, as co-ordinator of
the Kia Piki te Ora Suicide Preven-
tion programme, he had had a
huge impact on many lives'', the
Mr Morunga lost his sight as the
result of two sporting accidents,
the first at the age of 16 and the
second at 22.
While in Auckland Hospital he
contemplated suicide by throwing
himself from his sixth-floor win-
dow. Everything was doom, gloom
black and ugly and I can fully
recall the feelings and sentiments
of that time,'' he said.
An abject, total feeling of use-
lessness went over me. But then I
realised that I might end up unable
to walk, as well as blind, so I
Dealing with suicide
Suicide crosses all ages. We
tend to have, as a community, con-
cerns around young people because
of the age. The reasons are complex
and there is no single answer. I'm
pretty sure that most of us, at some
time in our life, have had downs,
lows -- I've yet to meet anyone who
hasn't had a moment, day, week or
month where they've been in a
fairly depressed state of mind.
So if we say it's not uncommon,
then what we should be doing is
finding the ways forward to bring
them out of that and be aware of it
a lot more than we are.
For example, someone who is
bipolar. It's a condition that's hard
to identify and often isn't ident-
ified. Because of the mood swings,
people deem it as someone being
moody, or depressed, or away with
the fairies', we often put simplistic
things around it so we can move
on, we don't want to spend time
dwelling on it.
Hence we find a lot of people
nationally being seen with
depression and being medicated
He said treatment did not
always have to involve medication
or long-term counselling, saying we
had forgotten what people actually
liked, perhaps simply being listen-
ed to, cuddled, or even given a
kick up the backside''.
Sometimes it's just about being
able to accurately and sensitively
figure that out. Communication is
a big factor, in fact I would say it
needs to be at the top of the list.''
Another concept Mr Morunga
was keen on was connectedness,
saying historically society had
found negative words --- such as
dysfunctional --- for situations and
had not balanced that by describ-
ing positive things. That's where
we're missing the bus as a com-
munity; we're failing to keep up
with the changes.
In this work I can get quite low
about the way things are going but
on the other hand I can get quite
angry as well. I'm of the line that
solutions, answers and responsi-
bilities are with us, we just have to
act on them.''
Mr Morunga credited his fan-
tastic childhood'' in rural Wairoa
for his outlook. Everybody cared
for everybody, shared workloads
and food and if, as a child you step-
ped out of line, someone would
bringyoubackin. . .Iwouldcall
it innovative, creative . . . They say
it takes a village to raise a child. I
was one of those village kids and I
wish every child could be.''
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