The infected wound at the centre of the NZ soul and our cowardice confronting suicide 

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The ‘1X’ attempted suicide callout police are getting 67 times a day

Police are responding to suicide attempts and threats 67 times a day but new cadets enter the force with just eight hours of mental health training.

Last financial year 685 people took their own lives but figures from the New Zealand Police’s 2018/19 annual report show officers were called out 24,662 times to people attempting or threatening to – an average of 67 a day and a 10 per cent increase from the previous year.

With a mental health system struggling to keep up with demand, 111 has become the first point of contact when people are in crisis, pushing police officers to the frontline of a mental health crisis.

On top of suicide callouts police also received 32,994 other mental health calls for events such as psychosis or people in distress.

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When ill equipped Police are the frontline to our mental health and suicide crisis, we are in deep, deep trouble.

The horror of our suicide rate gives us a glimpse behind the ‘she’ll be right’ facade of our culture and the dark torment of an alpha male macho mental landscape that is terribly fragile.

Our under funded social infrastructure, our ‘me first’ consumerism, our 30 years of neoliberal mythology, our disconnection from one another, our untreated pain, our lack of hope from grinding poverty in a first world country, our damaged masculinity, the intergenerational consequences of colonialism, our unspoken rage culture, our inability to express emotion beyond anger – all of this demands questions we don’t want to hear as a society and the shame of suicide continues to hide and smother any healing.

In a society that has no religious faith and all the cultural maturity of a can of coke, the bonds which keep us attached are frail and disconnected. In our fetishisation of individualism we have lost the central part of the human condition –  connection.

We have traded in our interwoven threads of whanau, friendship and kin for a rat race where no one wins.

The reason we can’t talk about suicide is because we can’t stand to talk about the dark treacle of self hate and loneliness at the core of consumer culture. We don’t dare confront the hollowness of our existence on these far flung crags of rock for fear of what we will reveal about ourselves.

Damaged individuals competing for a self identity too fragile for the storms and tempests of life.

Thanks to neoliberalism, we are further from each other than ever before.

Look at the manner in which our suicide rates jumped after the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s, where we moved away from the communal towards the individual…

…we huddle frightened on these lonely rocks at the end of the world and slowly one by one slip off into the swallowing dark. Until we are prepared to confront many of the individualism-over-all myths and rebuild our tattered communities, our suicide rate will remain reminding us of our whispered deceptions.

We refuse to ask the why of suicide because we are too frightened to know the answer is a reflection of the shallow and lonely community we have become. Instead we reel off a list of phone numbers whenever we dare mention suicide as if that means a fucking thing.

We are broken and no one wants to admit that.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Bomber i have nothing to add except too say you have summed up the current situation very succinctly.

    The picture of the elderly man on this post is an indictment of the economic system that we are living under and its evil suffocation of what it means too be compassionate and supporting of anyone who is a victim of this most repressive of systems with a friendly smiling face.

    No human being should be pushed into ending their right too live.

    Too loose anyone this way is a unforgivable crime.

  2. The time line seems to show a correlation between periods of high or increasing suicide rates and the periods when a Labour government was in office.
    Can you show us the figures post 1996?
    Correlation does not amount to cause of course, but it is interesting.

    • The policies of the fifth Labour government may have caused the suicide rate to increase, and there is anecdotal evidence to support that conclusion. However having cast an eye over the statistics (without doing a statistical analysis) it is not obvious to me that Labour governments generally cause an increased number of suicides.
      On the other hand I can see no evidence that Labour policies effect a reduction in the number of suicides. Increasing suicide rates, like so many other social and economic phenomena, appear to be related to the policies of the colonial regime as a whole, rather than to the particular policies of any party or parties.

  3. Poet of reality. V. the delightful Countryboy who … Suicide, child abuse, imprisonment, teenage pregnancy, where we lead the world. Can you add to that?

    Argument, for the 84 elite. Maybe we needed a swing to freedom then but now it’s time for a swing to demo-cracy. You understand nothing’s perfect and we have to go back and forth. Unless you’re not NZers anymore. In Remuera.

    • The Reforms of 1984 did not and have not provided any discernible freedoms. I was a self employed employer throughout the 80’s and 90’s and that economic climate shafted small businesses.Destroyed working people’s wages and conditions, robbed our children and fucked our societal ethics. The manipulation of the NZ dollar on the ‘markets’ screwed over small exporters like me. It Worked at times but by and large what we experienced as small isolated economy was theft. Wealth transfer is the theft pf public assets by the private sector. I cannot recommend Bruce Jesson’s books enough to anyone who genuinely wants to understand the government sanctioned larceny that occurred by those in the know.

  4. This govt talks a big game, says they will fix it, promises to do better & still… Nothing changes.

    I’m disillusioned with labour

  5. Here is my attempt to get to the bottom of suicide after the death of my son in 2007.
    The result is “alienation” which is intrinsic to capitalism.
    Which leaves one solution – revolution.
    Since then it has become clear when youth take up the fight against climate change and realise that the capitalocene is the problem, the solution is even more obvious – revolution.
    Greta Thunburg stood up for all the kids who were depressed and dropping out.
    Look at the result of one person standing up. I would say it will be months, maybe just weeks before she says climate strikes are not enough we need a climate revolution.
    The ultimate cowardice is to face up to the fact that kapitalism is killing us and we have to kill it to stop it destroying most living things.
    https://situationsvacant.blog/2009/04/29/talking-about-suicide/

  6. AO/NZ?
    @ 5 million people, and 25 K sq km larger in land area than the UK with 60 + million.
    AO/NZ known once as the ‘market garden’ of Europe for producing world class foods and wool.
    AO/NZ at the beginning of the 1970’s had the third highest standard of living in the world.
    685 people killed themselves last ‘financial’ year.
    Last ‘Financial’ year. Not the last spiritual year nor a seasonal year but the ‘financial’ year.
    There ya go. That’s why most people kill themselves. Because they perceive themselves as the losers they’re portrayed as being by a monstrous advertising industry that no matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid.
    In beautiful, bountiful AO/NZ.
    Drive down (not just) Ponsonby road and you can’t avoid the lurid, hideous, psychologically abusive and intrusive Big Screen brainwashing screens towering above us, luring us into just that little bit more on the mortgage, then you too can drive the Glittering, Black, Curb Crawler, Cock Extension 2000 4×4. ( In a years time, when your Curb Crawler 2000 is worth a third of what you’re no in debt to the Banksters for now and you can’t remember the last time your mind was settled and clear enough to consider sex with your fleeting extension, you know… Well, you think you know you’re fucked. But you’re not, in fact, fucked of course. There are plenty of things you can do. Dump the stupid Curb Crawler 2000, sell the absurdly over priced Ponsonby hut and move to the country and buy a cow man.)
    I’ve had five people so far whom I was close to kill themselves. Five. And I don’t know that many people.
    Car gassings is popular. A couple of hangings. An over dose. Five beautiful people whom I loved. A couple of kids barely in their twenties. A couple of Gay guys who partied too hard chasing the ghost.
    Prior to the alien arrival that left us with roger douglas and his wonderful neoliberalism I’d never knew of anyone who suicided.
    36 years later and now 685 suicides a year.
    Let me ask you guys a question?
    Do you think the market driven approach to living and life is still a good idea?
    No? You don’t think so?
    Good. Neither do I.
    So? What are we going to do about it then?
    Wait for a toothy, blazing, hollow smile and another ‘lets do this’ promise?
    Hang onto the smoke and mirrors bullshittery the natzo’s brain fart at us while they lie to us and stab us in the back to foreign interests with the deep pocketsesssssssssss……… ?
    Forget about our worthless wanker politicians. They’re simply ripping us off.
    We need to come up with a plan. Because this is a bit fucked.
    Wouldn’t it be interesting…? To invite the Prime Minister of Finland over for a cup of tea and a wee chat about her observations on AO/NZ?
    That’d be a good start, right? A fresh perspective? Fuck the yanks and the callous Chinese ! I don’t know about you guys but I’m sick to fucking death of hearing about the orange drumpho and the Ho Chi Hoo Ha’s or what the fuck ever…
    I want to hear from progressive people like the Portuguese and the Fins.
    Sanna Marin
    “Sanna Mirella Marin is a Finnish politician who has been serving as the Prime Minister of Finland since 10 December 2019. A Social Democrat, she has been a member of the Parliament of Finland since 2015 and was the Minister of Transport and Communications between 6 June 2019 and 10 December 2019. Wikipedia”
    From what I read she’s never, ever said “Lets do this…”
    She just does it.
    There are two words that would spear the ear drums of the bankster like a Philips screw driver would to the rest of us.
    ‘Social Democracy’. Yowch ! Right boys?
    There’s no money for the bankster within a social democracy. No Suicides neither.

  7. You write with passion Bomber. Our household confronted suicide when one of our sons took his life 13 year ago on the 24th January. He was a sensitive gifted young man, with a dry sense of humour – he liked B-grade movies, loved classical music and had a remarkable ability with language whether English, Old English, German or Russian. He was a reserved young man who became depressed. We arranged for him to see psychologists. When that didn’t help, he set out his need to see a psychiatrist “working in the state system”. Stupid, stupid me, I thought he would let me know when he wanted that to happen. I was the one he expected to organise this and he must have thought I had given up on him. My only excuse – I was distracted by pain, waiting for a hip replacement.

    Most suicides are young Maori men. Our son was Pakeha but fitted the profile of young men who feel they are failures. Mike King has been running a very effective suicide prevention programme that has filled the void you describe. Mike needs funding to continue. What a disgrace our Labour-led government is failing badly in the mental health area. They need to be reminded that lives matter.

  8. Awful. That’s why I am sure that we need to carry a sort of talisman template around with us to temper our responses to each other and happenings in general – kindness and practicality. That sounds a bit weak and wet but really the two together ensure that a robust response to whatever.

    Thoughtful people of goodwill keep asking for intelligent consideration and action from government and leaders, to enable people to cope with their roles in life, and be given fair opportunities and not be lambasted by unreasonable laws, but fairly admonished when they don’t comply with reasonable ones. A balance of kindness, and acceptance of self-responsibility also, with proper procedures from government to enable a society where there are real choices would advance us towards satisfactory outcomes. Less harsh nastiness in what remains of some people’s hearts, would show up in less death threats to people in controversy. It would reduce mental turmoil and despair to ground level instead of as now taking off to the heavens. And a bit of soul, letting out the beautiful loving you that is often trodden down from either too much Tough Love or not enough loving remonstrance when growing up.

  9. Could be that Celia Lashlie’s book He’ll Be Ok: Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men could tell us something – that we are all different apparently, from the numerous reviews of how other people find it. Teenage sons, definitely can be difficult, more than daughters? https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/705070.He_ll_Be_Ok

    I think young men and how parents relate to them gets harder to figure out all the time in these days of multiple experiences with no grounding, through television, film etc. Ideas and images get into the brain – are they ever fully processed? Has anyone else read that parents have minimal standing after about age 12 compared to all the other responses that hit their minds? And do people agree with that?

    Also if a man or woman is brought up to believe that hard work and application builds success, and success leads to happiness and so all is materialistic really, and then when older and there are a few setbacks and the person is confronted with the fragility of society that seemed concrete, and the idea of existentialism compared to determinism and all the other bloody ‘isms’ that our fertile brains can imagine – it can be too much to see one’s way through. Whew – too much.

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