10 Sep 2017

Empty pairs of shoes mark terrible toll

3:08 pm on 10 September 2017

There were 606 pairs of shoes - each representing a New Zealander lost to suicide - lining the steps of Parliament today.

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Photo: public domain

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and in the past few weeks, the shoes have been taken on a tour to 20 towns and communities, to draw attention to the country's high suicide rates.

The organising group from the Yes We Care campaign want an independent inquiry into mental health, and for political parties to adopt a zero suicide target.

Jane Stevens, who lost her son Nicky to suicide in 2015 aged 21, has been travelling with the group, and said more needed to be done to remove the silence and stigma around suicide.

On Monday, the group will meet politicians to hear what they plan to do about what the campaigners see as a mental health crisis.

Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern has promised that people who have lost family members and friends to suicide would have input into a Labour government review of mental health services.

She told the crowd that it was devastating that more than 600 New Zealanders took their own lives last year and if elected to government Labour would have an inquiry into mental health services.

And Ms Ardern said Labour would do everything it practicably could to help those who had experienced loss.

"I know for a long time there has been a call for just simple things, simple things, like making sure that we do everything within our power and the mental health system to look after those who need it most.

"And we need to start by making sure that we get it right - you will be heard when we review mental health in New Zealand," Ms Ardern said.

"And that is the very least we can commit to."

Ms Adern also spoke emotionally of her best friend's brother who took his own life when she was 13-years-old and was moved by the symbolism of the shoes.

"I want to acknowledge everyone in this crowd who has a story, or has a loved one, those shoes are quite moving to see."

She said Labour would place mental health teams in every public secondary school in the country.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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