Ahead of our SOS Silence of Suicide meeting in Auckland on 19th August, we take a look at some of the mental health issues making the headlines here in New Zealand, where there is particular concern over the suicide rates amongst young people, yet again confirming that mental health education within schools at an early age is absolutely crucial.  Our belief is mirrored by New Zealand’s Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Sir Peter Gluckman .

New Zealand has a problem – with the highest suicide rates amongst teenagers in the developed world and the second highest rate of young people aged 25 and under, this country needs to find, and implement, services and resources to help put the brakes on and as SOS have frequently stated, young people need to develop a sense of self worth, self esteem and self belief which will help carry them through life’s various challenges, better equipping them to deal with difficult and demanding situations as they grow up.

This belief is upheld by New Zealand’s Health Minister, Dr Jonathan Coleman, who, during an interview with NZH, stated that: “New Zealand’s teen suicide rate may be a result of us not doing enough to build resilience and self-esteem in our youth.” (Extracted from NZH)

You can view our interview with NZH by clicking here

Below are just a handful of stories which relate to young people.  Many more stories probably remain unspoken and unheard.

Take the story of Maddy, who, in today’s New Zealand Herald, describes how she has managed to stop self harming after years of depression brought on by bullying at schools, some of it in relation to her sexuality.  Luckily for Maddy, her mum is extremely supportive and has encouraged and helped Maddy move forward.  However, for many young people, they either feel they cannot open up or the response they get if they do is not supportive.  As a society, we have to learn to LISTEN to younger people and share the responsibility for supporting them now and in the future.

Sadly, Maddy is not the only young person struggling with depression because of her sexuality. The story of Jay, a genderqueer, is equally as distressing, demonstrating the prejudice and stigmas facing young people who do not conform to accepted sexual ‘stereotypes’.

This is perfectly illustrated in the story of Tawhanga, a young transgender man who has turned to his culture for the support that had evaded him.  As he says to the New Zealand Herald:

“If you are sexually diverse you become sexualised by society and so people prey upon you because your sexuality is not the norm or is not perceived the norm so people think; well abnormal behaviours are things that I can perform on you.” (2 August 2017, Hunter Calder NZH)

In the same interview, Tawhanga offers advice we’d all do well to heed when he says:

“Because suicide and self-harm is about hopelessness. Is about feeling hopeless, and it’s not about wanting to die, it’s about wanting to take the feeling of hopelessness away. So what can you do as a person to help other people feel better. It can be as simple as just smiling.” (2 August 2017, Hunter Calder, NZH)

We have spoken with many people during our short stay here, and the silence around the subject is clearly palpable.  The relief felt by people able to discuss their experience of suicide, in the open for the first time, is vast.

We look forward to welcoming you all on the 19th August.  Simply go to our events page and reserve your free seats at SOS Auckland.

It’s time to stop the silence

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