Two days after two hikoi of 579 pairs of shoes (each) set off simultaneously from Cape Reinga and Bluff, bound for Parliament’s hallowed steps, the Chief Coroner announced the latest suicide figures for the 2017 financial year: 606.
Organisers of the YesWeCare.nz’s Shoe Project had little more than an hour to add 27 more pairs of empty shoes in each Island before their next stop, when what they would rather have done was to remove some of the shoes, because suicide figures were falling.
Fat chance, with this Government, and it’s head in sand attitude towards setting any targets and implementing any actions that would make meaningful change to this awful statistic.
Every empty pair of shoes represents a heartbroken family/whanau, a mountain of wasted potential, and a stain on this society.
The hikoi are due to reach Parliament on Monday September 11th, where it is hoped some of the Parliamentarians will deign to take time out from their ‘strenuous’ campaigning to listen to the shoes’ stories.
The shoes have been laid out on the lookouts at Bluff, overlooking Foveaux Strait, and at Cape Reinga, overlooking Spirits Bay where the wairua of our loved ones depart this country. They have been on the foreshore at Mt Maunganui, the banks of the Waikato River, Whangarei’s Canopy Bridge, Mission Bay in Auckland, Lake Rotorua, and many other iconic local spaces around the country.
It’s been almost overwhelming for the hikoi organisers as they set up the shoes in a new location, and are faced by new families they hadn’t previously been in contact with, arriving with more pairs of empty shoes to place in the collection, having heard of the event in their local area on social media, or occasionally in the mainstream media.
In Gisborne, Jasmine Taare told those present that she had lost four close members of her family to suicide in the last three years, including her 19-year-old first cousin only three weeks earlier.
“We’ve tried to find help. We looked for help and found nothing. We went to the mental health services and they let us down.”
Sandra Crump picked up her daughter’s sparkly blue and purple platforms from beside the Waikato River in Hamilton, where she had become a suicide victim, and told local media what the last entry in her daughter’s diary was.
“I’m just gonna write this, just in case I die. I’m not planning to, but if do… I want to live, I want a life. If I have a life, it would be amazing. I would be amazing.” [Talia’s last words]
My partner Jane is travelling with the North Island part of the Shoe Project. And said “We’re honouring the loss of all 606 people and the impact it has on their whanau and how it turn’s people’s lives upside down.”
Our son, Nicky Stevens, became a suicide victim 30 months ago – we still haven’t had a Coroner’s Hearing, so he isn’t even yet counted in the 567 suicides statistic from the 2015 year.
The truth is that the 606 statistic tells far less than the complete story. A very large proportion of NZ families are themselves suicide victims, or have escaped that ‘fate’ by the skin of their teeth.
It is only a useless Minister (of Health) and a useless Ministry that appear to be still in denial about the extent of the suicide problem in this country.
It is my fervent hope – something that I’m personally working hard for – that the coming election delivers them all a very sharp and painful kick up the backside.
Elected Waikato DHB Member & TDB mental health blogger
(Dave’s son Nicky Stevens was a suicide victim in March 2015)