Marchers aim to prevent suicide
Raising awareness about the silent epidemic of suicide was the aim of a march on World Suicide Prevention Day.
The event included a march from Laurie Hall Park to Whangarei Central Library where 547 pairs of shoes were laid out - each representing a life lost to suicide in New Zealand last year.
Held last Monday, September 10, the event was organised by Deb Williams, who co-founded Community Action on Suicide Prevention Education and Research - Casper - after her 21-year-old daughter Cloudy committed suicide in 2008.
But she was not the only Whangarei resident to have a loved one take their own life. The march was full of people affected by suicide who want action to help stop further deaths.
Wayne Rosemergy lost his son Rhys in 2009 and now backs the charity Choose Life set up by his older son Jamie.
He says those contemplating suicide need to reach out for help and their family and friends need to learn more so they can identify the signs.
"There's too much of it out there - 547 died last year, which is higher than the road deaths. It's gut-wrenching," he says. "It's like throwing a pebble into a pond, it's a big ripple in the water that affects so many people."
He says the march was a chance for people to share their stories.
Keith Whalley walked the march carrying the shoes of his daughter Vanessa. She was just 17 when she died in 2005.
He says the march was a good idea to raise awareness.
"People don't realise how many people lose their lives that way. More people need to know about it and try to recognise the signs," he says.
Sixteen-year-old Reihana-Mai Ritchie-Smith says she took part in the march "in respect of the loved ones that have passed".
She encourages people to talk and seek help.
"They need to not bottle stuff up because that makes it worse."
The World Health Organisation says almost 3000 people commit suicide daily. For every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives.
It says awareness needs to be raised that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death.