Nation to join in haka to fight suicide

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2013
Ihaia Te Wiki, left, and Metua Herbert
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ

FAMILY MATTERS: Ihaia Te Wiki, left, and Metua Herbert, both 12, practise with a group at Number 10 for a mass haka today, organised to raise awareness of suicide prevention.

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Southlanders will be among hundreds of New Zealanders taking part in a mass haka today to raise awareness of suicide prevention.

Organisers of Haka for Life are hoping more than 2200 people will perform nationwide for a record-beating haka, to encourage discussion about suicide and suicide prevention.

In Southland, community groups Bereavement After Suicide Southland, Number 10 youth centre and Community Action on Suicide Prevention, Education and Research are co-ordinating the haka, which will take place about 1.5km from the Invercargill Rowing Club.

Number 10 youth worker Kylie Jane Phillips said Haka for Life was a way to open up discussions, which could help curb suicide rates in the region.

There was a culture of shame attached to suicide, she said.

"In the olden days, especially for Maori, there was a big shame thing. Nowadays, people are standing up to act a lot more.

"It's really crucial. We need to talk about it."

The record attempt was part of other events at the river to encourage Southlanders to celebrate Waitangi Day with family, whether Maori or not, she said.

"It's about whanau time, and it's about looking after your whanau."

Bereavement After Suicide Southland founder Sarah Ritchie-Warren said the national suicide rate had increased by 46 per cent during the past year, and Maori youth rates in particular had skyrocketed.

She believed this was why Waitangi Day had been chosen for the mass haka.

Anyone was welcome to take part in the haka, but would need to be on site by noon, she said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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