Let’s talk about sui­cide

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - By ABBY BROWN

All Mata­mata res­i­dents should ‘‘make sui­cide every­body’s busi­ness’’ by reach­ing out to those at risk of sui­cide.

That was the mes­sage at the April 1 event or­gan­ised by Lifebuoy at Mata­mata Bi­ble Church.

San­dra Palmer, who works for Clin­i­cal Ad­vi­sory Ser­vices Aotearoa, em­pha­sised the need for ‘‘con­nect­ed­ness in a com­mu­nity’’. This was im­por­tant on both an in­di­vid­ual and group level, she said.

Her pre­sen­ta­tion also high­lighted the fact that all age groups were at risk of sui­cide. She said li­braries in Grey Lyn, where she lived, pro­vided im­mea­sur­able ser­vices be­yond just books and com­put­ers. Li­brar­i­ans could be the only friendly in­ter­ac­tion some of the el­derly cus­tomers would have in a week. A great ex­am­ple of an in­di­vid­ual con­nect­ing with a stranger was when a pet-lov­ing li­brar­ian asked af­ter an el­derly pet dog, that was of­ten tied up out­side the li­brary, only to find the much loved ca­nine friend had died, so the li­brar­ian was able to sup­port her cus­tomer.

Palmer felt sui­cide needed to be dis­cussed by the public and me­dia in a safe way, so as not to glam­or­ise it but en­cour­age those at risk to feel it was OK to ask for help.

Hamil­ton coro­ner Peter Ryan also sup­ported the con­tem­po­rary move away from the aver­sion to dis­cussing sui­cide. ‘‘ We have kept quiet about sui­cide and it has not worked so we need to try an­other tack,’’ he said.

Raewyn Richards, from Mata­mata, spoke at the event about los­ing her hus­band to sui­cide to show that there should not be stigma or shame around that kind of death. ‘‘If peo­ple ask me how he died, I tell them he com­mit­ted sui­cide. It does some­times cause an un­com­fort­able si­lence but with oth­ers they will tell me about los­ing a loved one to sui­cide.’’ She said sui­cide needed to be dis- cussed so those that needed help could feel more com­fort­able to ask for it.

Lifebuoy mem­bers en­cour­aged any­one feel­ing sui­ci­dal to get in touch with them. Mata­mata po­lice­man Bruce War­ren­der said the po­lice were of­ten called to help deal with those with sui­ci­dal thoughts. GPs like Lifebuoy mem­ber Greg Dunn could also pro­vide help.

Dunn said Lifebuoy mem­bers would now get to­gether to debrief and dis­cuss the next step. He said a po­ten­tial step was es­tab­lish­ing an 0800 num­ber, manned by Lifebuoy mem­bers, for those with sui­ci­dal thoughts and their fami- lies to call for ad­vice on the best con­tacts for their rel­e­vant needs.

Lifebuoy also has vol­un­teers from Starfish So­cial Ser­vices, the lo­cal col­lege and the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion who fo­cus on ‘‘ postven­tion’’ fol­low­ing a sui­cide. They try to mit­i­gate the im­pacts of sui­cides and hope­fully re­duce the risk of fur­ther sui­cides.

Lifebuoy was es­tab­lished in Mata­mata af­ter a spate of three sui­cides six years ago. Fol­low­ing a com­mu­nity fo­rum meet­ing in Novem­ber 2008, a con­sen­sus was achieved that some form of lo­cal so­lu­tion needed to oc­cur.

The non-funded group meets quar­terly and af­ter a sui­cide.

Photo: TERESA HAT­TAN

Mar­lene Sch­weizer took dress­ing up to an­other level with her bright pur­ple wig as part of Mata­mata In­ter­me­di­ate’s bian­nual 24 Hour Walk last week. The event, which started at 2pm on Wed­nes­day, saw a large por­tion of the stu­dent body take to the school’s field for the fundrais­ing oc­ca­sion. Stu­dents walked through the night in stints and sev­eral even com­pleted all 24 hours. For more pho­tos, turn to pages 6 and 7.

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