Open main menu Close main menu


Adam Collett - From Grief to Graduation

10 June 2024

Please be aware that this story addresses personal experiences related to grief, depression, and suicidal ideation.

In the Aotea Centre auditorium, new architects step into the future. Among them is Adam Collett, a Unitec graduate with a Master in Architecture, whose academic accomplishments demonstrate extraordinary perseverance.

Refelcting on his journey, Adam says that although his path was difficult at times, marked by personal tragedy and mental health battles, he is proud to have remained resilient and determined. For him, his graduate’s tassel signifies far more than academic success —it’s also a celebration of survival and a promise kept.

"To say my journey in education was smooth sailing is a total understatement," he says. In the first week of his undergraduate year, Adam’s father became very sick with cancer.

"He died pretty quickly, after my first term. Unfortunately, he didn't really get to see a lot of what I did."

Through this severe loss, Adam tried to maintain a façade of normalcy, balancing his design models and grief, but his father's loss became too much.

 "By the second year, I was really struggling. I was suicidal.”

Unitec’s staff and Counselling Services, including the Mental Health Coordination team, provided support to help Adam during this time.  

“I had a very supportive team around me at Unitec, and from the counselling services to the teaching staff, they just held my hand and helped me through the process – all the way through to me receiving my Bachelor's degree.

After completing his Bachelor of Architectural Studies, Adam pursued his Master’s, inspired by his father's words: "You get out there and you design mama a house."

Adam describes his Master's as “always the second hardest thing" behind his mental health journey. "I'm here as a survivor and a Master of Architecture.”

Asked what he would say to his younger self and others facing mental health battles, Adam says, "This isn't how it's going to be forever. You're going to get through this. You will climb that mountain top, hold up the trophy and say you did it!"

In his fourth year, Adam started interning at Syn Architects, where he gained practical experience to apply his learning and turn theory into tangible constructs. It fulfilled the degree requirement of 480 hours of professional work, and also led to a enjoyable full-time role.

With his Master's degree in hand, Adam has an open road ahead of him. "The plan now is to work and see what opportunities lie ahead. The road is unpaved, and it's up to me to pave it."



Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, we strongly encourage seeking professional help. Below are some resources and contacts in Aotearoa New Zealand that offer support.

Where to get help

If it is an emergency and you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

For counselling and support

Lifeline: Call 0800 543 354 or text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Need to talk? Call or text 1737

Depression helpline: Call 0800 111 757 or text 4202

Confidential emotional support: Call 0800 726 666

For children and young people

Youthline: Call 0800 376 633 or text 234

What's Up: Call 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm) or webchat (11am to 10.30pm)

The Lowdown: Text 5626 or webchat

For help with specific issues

Alcohol and Drug Helpline: Call 0800 787 797

Anxiety Helpline: Call 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)

OutLine: Call 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) (6pm-9pm)

Safe to talk (sexual harm): Call 0800 044 334 or text 4334

All services are free and available 24/7 unless otherwise specified.

The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand also provides more information and links on its website.