New Zealand Police detective JP Carré is on a mission to raise awareness of mental health while running for the Mental Health Foundation in the Auckland Marathon on 29 October.

A member of the police since 2009, JP’s Marlborough-based role involves investigating abuse in adults and children, attending fatal car crashes and attending suicides.

"As a detective, I see the psychological effects of abuse, trauma and grief and the profound effect it has on people's mental health. As an adult, husband and parent there are constant life stresses in this modern, busy world and when I talk to others it's evident that many others are suffering too.”

Growing up, JP (38) says he would always feel a vacant hollowness come over him.

“I never knew what it was and I couldn’t explain it, I just thought it was normal to have an overwhelming sense of sadness,” says the father-of-two.

When he was 26, he hit rock bottom.

“I was overseas and ended up coming home to New Zealand to get some help – only I arrived to find my good friend had died by suicide. Around this time, I had my first massive depressive episode. And around this time, I also met someone who would become my wife. She loved me even with all my faults.”

Family and nature key to recovery

JP sees the world much clearer today and says he has his wife Laurel and boys Jean-Luc (5) and Hugo (4) to thank for that. Exercise, fishing, diving and being in the Marlborough Sounds is what makes him happy and gets him through any hard times.

When he first shared his story on his Auckland Marathon fundraising page in June 2017, he was shocked by the response he received.

“We have been approached by a lot of people who are or have been experiencing a mental illness or struggling with their wellness – people who on the outside appear to have it all, but on the inside, they’re not okay. Their struggles stem from everyday stresses such as family issues, having young children, grief or work stresses.

“My biggest message is to take care of yourself so it won't lead to something more severe," he says.

Talking openly about mental illness

Recently, JP has started to question why Kiwis aren’t talking about mental wellness. He says that while mental illness is common, it’s not common enough that New Zealanders feel comfortable talking about it to each other. He wants to change that.

“That was the catalyst for me to go public about this. I thought I need to tell everyone my story in the hope that someone who is dealing with the inner pain knows that they do not need to anymore.”

He feels confident talking about his mental wellness to colleagues, despite news that the police are turning away new recruits who are taking anti-depressants.

“[In the police] we have a psychologist check-up every three months to make sure we are mentally well. If things aren’t going too well, then systems are put in place to monitor our welfare and get us back on track. This is not just for detectives or specialist squads but for any employee who comes across a disturbing or difficult experience, or who are just going through challenging times.”

JP held a fundraising dinner with a silent and live auction on 7 September, called JP’s Road to the Marathon, at the Clubs of Marlborough. Tickets were $50 per person, which included a two-course buffet dinner and all money raised went to the MHF.