NEW ZEALAND 2
At last! After 4 weeks of travelling, primarily for work related projects, through Hong Kong, New Zealand & the USA, we are back on English soil suffering the effects of flying back in time – we know not what day, month, year or time of day it is, but we’re sure by the end of this week, we’ll be well and truly back to normal!
As this is our second article on New Zealand, we’ve had to call it New Zealand 2 so our site can distinguish between articles.
First up, we thought we’d give you a summary of the SOS meeting held in Auckland, in conjunction with the New Zealand Herald. Click to read and watch. The event was well attended by over 50 people – fabulous considering we had just a week to promote it.
New Zealand has the highest teenage suicide rate in the developed world, which is a sobering and frightening thought given the small population. What is going so wrong, especially for the young people, that they are driven to taking their own lives?
One young mother who had lost her child to suicide at the age of just 15 and who attended our Auckland event voiced concerns about the rising use of drugs and alcohol amongst young people, some of whom see no hope for their futures. This is exactly what we hear in England and Northern Ireland too, with youngsters withdrawing and isolating themselves and/or resorting to harmful and, potentially, fatal substance use and abuse.
In New Zealand, there is an overwhelming belief that we need to educate children at a very young age (once in primary school) in the value of themselves as humans, instilling into them a sense of self worth and self confidence which will help carry them through life’s demanding situations as they grow. It appears that New Zealand is no different to the UK in this belief and it is something SOS believes in passionately. To curb upward teenage suicide trends, we have to educate children before they reach puberty and problems really rear their ugly head. This thought process is backed up by our awareness that some children as young as 8 have attempted self harm and suicide.
The audience in Auckland were heavily engaged, so much so that we ran over by an hour. Whilst some people had never spoken before, others had, and they came to share their stories of support from friends, family or complete strangers. Overall, we concluded that people get far more support than they do in the UK, with GPs being applauded generally for the work they do. However, and there is a big however, many GPs simply give people anti-depressants and/or sleeping tablets, so how productive this approach is long term, or even short term, is a debate that is needed, especially given that the side effects of some medications prescribed for depression can actually enhance suicidal feelings.
The one astounding difference we must mention in New Zealand 2 are the laws preventing people from discussing a suicide. The word is prohibited until after a coroner has concluded a suicide has happened. This makes it very difficult for family members to speak freely, especially when they’ve found their loved one who’s taken their own life. My understanding is that fines can be handed out to offenders and newspapers are not allowed to report a suicide until post coroner reporting. Where there can be no doubt that a suicide has taken place, prohibition is utterly ludicrous, further adding to the shame, stigma and silence we’re all working hard to break down.
This way of thinking and acting clearly needs changing. Conversation is a must for anyone needing to discuss mental health and suicide. Yet to impose an archaic taboo on the subject is about as destructive, and isolating, as it can get.
Many stories were told. People had vast numbers of questions. Some, that day, managed to find a few answers.
The model of SOS has been adopted by a gentleman in Auckland and we are currently identifying how SOS could be delivered there going forward. Updates will follow.
Thank you to the people of Auckland for their contributions and support on the day.
Bristol Prison date for SOS sealed for this month
SOS visits Bristol Prison later this month in a bid to help understand and tackle escalating suicide and self harm rates amongst inmates. Feedback will be available from early October.
Department of Health.
SOS are also hosting the Department of Health in Leeds to on mental health awareness day, 10th October 2017. Again, feedback will be available shortly after the event.
The mental health issues arising from, or worsening as a direct result of the Grenfell atrocity show no signs of abating. These issues may be due to trauma and/or a combination of the daily challenges the local community is facing.
SOS remains in contact with a number of affected and will continue to offer our support not only through SOS meetings, but through face to face, telephone and email communications.
Another SOS ‘Safe Space to Talk’ for the Grenfell community is in the planning and further updates will be displayed on our website as soon as a venue is confirmed.
In the meantime, you can listen to ‘Ghosts of Grenfell’, an eerily brilliant and emotive song by rapper Lowkey , recorded in memory of the Grenfell victims, which screams unity, solidarity and community.
And Finally – a big thank you to all our followers and supporters for their patience during this particularly busy and demanding 5 weeks. We hope to have normal postings up and running by next week.
It’s time to stop the silence