© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2024

Former prisoner starts suicide-prevention charity

Eve Abernethy
Gerrit Gray Doppenberg
Jacob skilling talking
Jacob Skilling speaking at The Broken Movement Trust's event last year, 'Raise The Bar Fundraiser'.  Supplied

Jacob Skilling says his checkered past will help those needing help to relate to him.

Skilling's charity, The Broken Movement, aims to raise awareness around mental health and preventing suicide through affirmative action. 

He said it was designed to help people like him.

Skilling was 19 when he was jailed for nine years for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. After seven years in jail and a stint at Odyssey House, a rehabilitation service in Christchurch, he was "a changed man".

His own mental health issues had driven him to start The Broken Movement. He had struggled to receive help from conventional psychologists when he was growing up.

"I couldn't relate to them," he said.

"I would ask them, 'have you been molested? Have you stabbed someone? Have you been stabbed? Have you committed crimes?' They would say no, and I would ask, 'Well, why am I talking to you?'" 

Skilling said although mental health professionals were needed, he hoped his approach would provide a unique perspective to connect with people. 

"When you've got a leak at home, do you call a painter? No, you call a plumber. When you want to pull someone out of that life, you call someone with experience and knowledge. They can relate to them, they have the knowledge to speak to them. Stories to share, an emotional connection."

The Broken Movement would have a presence at community events, support similar organisations, provide financial support to individuals needing mental health services and create educational opportunities through qualified training.  

Skilling hoped to put on more events like the one at the Transitional Cathedral last year, where a range of guest speakers shared stories related to mental health.

He was keen to expand the trust to help ex-prisoners.

"It's hard to survive in the world when you get out. You come from a world you know into a world that you don't know, where you're persecuted. It's easy to slip back into old habits. Humans are habitual creatures."

Click here for The Broken Movement website.


1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Supporting Families in Mental Illness - 0800 732 825

Lifeline – 0800 543 354

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) – or email or free text 5626

Attendees of The Broken Movement Trust event share a hug during the event
Attendees of The Broken Movement Trust event share a hug during the event Supplied by Jacob Skilling