Let’s talk about suicide
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.
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.