OPINION: Not talking about suicide is not working


An ad played on the radio the other day - a concerned man asked why were there so many drink-driving and car-related advertisements when there were none for suicide.

He again asked why, when suicide statistics were almost double that of fatal car crashes.

I didn't have the answer. But, what I do know, is that not talking about suicide is simply not working.

The fact is every year about 500 New Zealanders take their own life. And this is not a far away problem that sits in someone else's backyard.

We have lost some from our own community.

For one particular instance, it was incredibly difficult to find any information. The age of the child had shocked so many.

I myself had questions; How does someone so young contemplate doing such a thing? Did they understand what death meant? And how does someone of such a young age know how to take their own life?

It was frightening. For the first time I realised suicide had no bounds.

There is a shame attached to suicide and it should not be there. We as a country have hit a new record high for youth suicide and it is an epidemic.

We have hundreds of young people taking their own lives yet for years we have been saying, let's talk about it. And, although there has been a subtle shift in society's willingness to be more open, the issue remains.

What is that we are clearly missing?

Otago University academic Dr Shyamala Nada-Raja and New Zealand Mental Health Foundation's Moira Clunie spoke of this in an interview with The Guardian in 2015. They both agreed we were missing something intrinsic -- who we were as New Zealanders.

They believed there was a lack of connection to our own identities which, when strong, could be a protective barrier against suicide and mental health.

That may also be why Maori are so dominant in these statistics.

Clunie told The Guardian, "When Maori have access to their language, genealogy, whakapapa and marae, they are really strong preventive measures against mental distress and suicide."

There are also those who feel deeply ashamed for having suicidal thoughts or depression. The stigma around mental health does nothing but perpetuate the crisis, the staunch 'she'll be right' attitude also does nothing to help.

Instead we should be openly and confidently asking for help, and offering our support.

It has taken decades for victims of sexual abuse to feel supported enough to speak up.

Will it take this long for those contemplating suicide?


Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376-4155

Samaritans 0800 726 666

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

- Manawatu Guardian

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