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Suicide awareness campaign arrives at Parliament

10 September 2017 12:01 AM
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Suicide awareness campaign arrives at Parliament

Six hundred and six shoes symbolising every Kiwi lost to suicide in the last 12 months have arrived at Parliament this morning, to solemnly mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

Over a 15-day, 3000km trip, crossing more than 20 towns from Cape Reinga to Bluff where bereaved people added their loved ones' shoes, the collection arrived at the capital with a large number of family members and advocates in tow.

The Shoe Project began with 579 shoes, but 27 extra shoes were added after the Coroner released new suicide figures during the roadshow.

Included in the 606 shoes families have placed on parliament grounds are 13 shoes for 10-14 year olds, 38 for teenagers and 101 for people older than 60.

Jane Stevens, who lost her son Nicky, 21, to suicide in 2015, traveled with the North Island collection.

Her son's body was found on March 12, 2015, three days he went missing from a mental health inpatient unit where he was a patient.

Ms Stevens said the shoes are a shattering visual reminder that has brought people to tears as "the loss becomes more real".

"The 606 shoes are a heart stopping and powerful reminder of all those whanau we've lost in the last 12 months," she said.

"Our journey with them has been heart breaking, but also extraordinary."

Ms Stevens said her struggle with the loss of her son had been public, which wasn't initially their family's choice.

"We were proud of our son, we would never hide his struggle and by going public we were trying to honour him."

Ms tevens has been a vocal advocate for an urgent independent inquiry into New Zealand's mental health crisis.

Seventy percent of New Zealanders and all political parties, except National and Act, supported an inquiry.

"We realised that silence wasn't helping to create change and unless people were brave enough to speak out, this cycle was going to continue and more people were going to die."

Many bereaved families felt blamed, intimidated and silenced, she said.

"It was bloody hard for us to get through that stigma at first, but in the end it fired our determination to seek change," Ms Stevens said.

"Speaking out has provided safety and inspired others to start to share their stories, which is what today event is all about."

Ms Stevens said her family spent seven "desperate" years trying to get help for her son.

"We realised Government underfunding meant there were huge gaps in what safe and adequate mental health services were available and it wasn't just our family falling through the gaps," she said.

"We're passionate and desperate to see change so other communities don't have the same life shattering experienced we've had."

The Shoe Project is supported by YesWeCare.nz, a new health coalition, and the Public Service Association, New Zealand's mental health union.

However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

Source: odt.co.nz

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