A total of 606 pairs shoes were set up at Mount Drury today to represent people who have taken their own lives in 2016.
The shoes represent eight children aged 10 to 14, as well as 51 teenagers, 419 adults and 101 older adults over sixty who lost their lives and have been taken around the country, including a stop in Hamilton yesterday.
Bereaved mother, Jane Steven was amongst the crowd in Mount Maunganui today and has been travelling to communities across the country to help raise awareness for suicide.
Jane lost her son two and a half years ago to suicide.
“We've done this set up a few times now but it still breaks my heart,” says Jane.
“It's very visual and confronting to stand here and look at this 606 pairs of shoes – every pair of these shoes representing someone we've lost.”
Jane says she is a strong advocate for an independent mental health inquiry.
“Nobody else understands as much as a bereaved parent the torment and the huge upheaval in our lives that is caused by suicide.”
“What's come through really clearly has been that people want to see change happen, they want to see the stigma and the silence around suicide to change,” she says.
“Families want to be part of the solution, they want to be involved they want to be heard.”
“We want to see a 0 suicide figure, not 606 people lost in the last year.”
606 shoes were lined up at Mt Drury this morning. Photo: Sam Gardner.
Jane says, holding an inquiry will honour those who have been lost and allow the voices of the bereaved to be heard.
“Sadly what we've seen is a lot of denial from our government, of there being a problem that's actually not helpful, it's not going to help make a change that's needed.”
“It's time that those tasked with the thinking and the resourcing of these strategies need to sit down and talk with everyone involved – survivors, families and communities.”
“That's why we are so strong about having an inquiry – an independent inquiry it needs fresh eyes it needs a joined up approach, it needs everyone working together,” she says.
“Until we do that we're not going to see change happen.”
Greens, Internet Party, Labour, Maori Party, New Zealand First and United Future have all responded to a letter from three mums who lost children to suicide, asking for support for six health pledges.
The National Party and Act Party didn't respond to the mother's request.
The six pledges are:
• Hold a mental health inquiry
• Restore $2.3b in health funding
• Set a suicide reduction target
• Increase primary health, GP funding
• Commit to safe staffing
• Make every home healthy
The six pledges were crowd-sourced by the YesWeCare.nz coalition and have the support of more than 200 bereaved families.
Jane says the event held in Mount Drury today was a good step towards finding a solution.
“We can't bring our whanau members back, but we can try and do something to contribute to stop this happening again and again.”
“The fact that whanau are coming out and sharing their stories – often for the first time is incredibly powerful and I think that gives people strength.”
“It engages people in the conversation, it raises awareness and I hope it starts people thinking yes, things do need to be different, that's our hope in travelling around all these communities.”
“It gives local people the opportunity to be part of something and we want to take those messages to Wellington.”
The petition asks Bill English and David Seymour to join bereaved families with 606 shoes at Parliament on 10 September, International Suicide Prevention Day and a face-to-face meeting with families on 11 September, the first day of advanced voting.
Jane and her husband Dave McPherson have also invited Bill English to speak with them at their son's memorial, a chair which is located near the Waikato River.