Suicide: the word people don't want to talk about
OPINION: Suicide. The word that most people don't like talking about, but which is having a devastating effect all around the world.
In New Zealand last year, we lost 579 people to suicide, with over 400 of those people being males. That is more people than road deaths and drownings combined, and yet we still don't seem to be taking this tragic stat seriously.
There were more people lost to suicide in the world last year, than were lost in all the wars in the world combined last year. In 15-19 year olds, New Zealand has the highest rate of suicides per capita in the world, a stat we should be ashamed of, and that needs seriously looking into, and something done about it.
Why the heck are these young ones, and in particular young males, not opening up and asking for help?
* Suicide rate among young Kiwi men double that of Australia's, study finds
* Manifesto: Dangerous expectations lead men to suicide
* More discussion needed to bring down 'unacceptably high' suicide rate
Why am I wanting to get these stats out there, raise awareness and get people opening up and talking? Because I lost my 22-year-old son Matt in a suspected suicide last October.
If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that suicidal people were the ones who had money issues, relationship issues, drug issues, and no job. Wow, how stupid was I.
My boy had no issues with any of the above; he was a very clever person, passing everything at school, a very well-liked young man with many friends, was Marlborough Division 1 footballer of the year in 2015, good at anything he put his hand to, and had no money or relationship issues.
So why did he feel he had to take his own life? That is the question I wish I knew the answer to.
Unfortunately New Zealanders, and males in particular, don't open up and let others know what it is that is eating away at them, and causing all the pain deep inside. My boy was very good at that.
At my house a few days before he died, he seemed to have no issues whatsoever from what I could see. We played table tennis, joked, talked about many things, and he seemed happy.
Unfortunately he was very good at hiding his inner struggles from me, and from his friends, and as a result, I was not able to help him, or find help for him. That is the one thing I am wanting to change in people in New Zealand, and males in particular. People need to learn to open up more, to ask for help when things get too much.
We hear some people say that people with issues need to harden up and tough it out. What a load of dribble. How is a person who is not in a good state of mind supposed to help themselves get over it? Opening up to someone gives you that extra person to help you, or find someone who can help you.
Never try and go it alone, and never be afraid to ask for help. It will be the decision that starts turning your life back around. Also, be a person who checks up on your family and mates, as you have no idea of the good it may be doing.
Over the last few years, I have gone through a marriage break-up, had both my hips replaced (I was into many sports, and that all came to a grinding halt) , and then lost my boy, so life pretty much sucked, and I found myself being like my son, and putting on a brave face despite hurting so much inside.
Luckily I have a mate who came around and checked on me every couple of days after work; he just sat and listened and talked, and that in itself made a huge difference, and was the start of my getting back to enjoying life again.
We can all do our bit by doing something simple like checking up on our family and mates, even if it seems like all is good, you never know what is going on under that tough and seemingly happy exterior.
Then in January I was given the opportunity to organise and run Hopewalk Blenheim, a suicide awareness and prevention campaign, helping to take away the stigma surrounding suicide, get people opening up and talking, asking for help, while also remembering the amazing people we have lost to suicide.
It was, and still is, way outside my comfort zone, but I knew I needed to do something to help raise awareness out there, and if it helps just one person get their life back on track, then it is worth it.
Storms never last forever, and soon enough the rainbow will reappear again. Never lose hope, and know that good times are just around the corner.
So if you are going through a hard time, never let it get to the point where you want to give up. Always remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel, a rainbow comes after the storm, and that storms never last forever.
Open up to someone, and ask for help. There is no shame in that, it proves that you are man enough to step outside your comfort zone to see the bright and amazing future you have waiting for you.
If you have no-one to talk to, or you don't know who to ask for help, message me through the Hopewalk Blenheim Facebook page. Life is good, and we live in a beautiful, amazing country, so lets all do our part in making people realise that life is worth living, and help them enjoy it to the fullest.
* Hopewalk Blenheim is on September 16th, starting with a 2.7km walk around Blenheim, followed by free sausage sizzle, chips, fruit, and drink for everyone walking, then we have short talks by three people, songs and skits from a group of young people, the playing of the Hopewalk theme song ("Lean on Me", by Bill Withers), and the letting go of 150 yellow helium balloons in memory of loved ones we have lost too soon.
Entry is free, and you can find out more about the event on the Hopewalk Blenheim Facebook page.
Where to get help:
Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email email@example.com
0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).
- The Marlborough Express