Sui­cide scourge prompts 668km trek

The Northern Advocate - - Local News -

In­stead of cel­e­brat­ing her 21st birth­day with the tra­di­tional party, Raglan woman Jes­sica Rose Collins set out to walk 668km over 21 days, to hon­our the 668 peo­ple who took their lives in New Zealand last year, and to bring at­ten­tion to tra­di­tional no­tions of heal­ing.

The 668km took her from Raglan to Kapowairua (Spir­its Bay), via “a few sig­nif­i­cant places”.

The idea came to her while she was study­ing Ma¯ori vis­ual arts at Massey Uni­ver­sity in Palmer­ston North, and af­ter sev­eral friends had taken their lives in re­cent years.

North­land had 41 sui­cides in 2016/17. “The kau­papa for this se­mes­ter [at uni­ver­sity] is mana whenua and what this means to you. I took the per­spec­tive that the land has the abil­ity to give and re­ceive strength,” she said.

“Over this past year I feel I have lost some of my own mana, there­fore through­out this jour­ney, I hope to re­claim it.”

She com­pleted her odyssey on time, 21 (non-con­sec­u­tive) days af­ter set­ting off, car­ry­ing a ko (a tra­di­tional gar­den­ing tool) with her, plant­ing 100 kawakawa seeds, wher­ever there was bless­ing to do so, and prac­tis­ing romiromi (tra­di­tional Ma¯ori mas­sage).

Most days she was ac­com­pa­nied by close friend Ash He¯mi, from Tau­ranga. The pair at­tempted to cover be­tween 20km and 40km a day. Their met­tle was well and truly tested by the weather in the very Far North.

The first stage from Ahipara to Waipa­pakauri Ramp was easy enough, but the weather be­came more se­vere on the af­ter­noon stage to Hukatere.

“It was just gnarly,” Jess said of the gale-force winds that buf­feted them, mak­ing for a par­tic­u­larly “tough day in the of­fice”.

The de­ci­sion not to wear footwear that day hadn’t helped, al­though she and Ash were not un­ac­cus­tomed to blis­ters, and had me­tres of bandages and ice foot­baths to help them.

Jess’ fam­ily and friends trav­elled from as far as Hamil­ton and Welling­ton to help her cel­e­brate her 21st birth­day in Kaita¯ia, and she proudly wore the ko­rowai her mother made as a 21st birth­day gift on Ninety Mile beach.

The walk was also aimed at rais­ing aware­ness of and funds for Life­line, which was no longer el­i­gi­ble for govern­ment fund­ing. The or­gan­i­sa­tion re­ceived Where to get help:

■ Life­line: 0800 543 354 (avail­able 24/7)

■ Sui­cide Cri­sis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (avail­able 24/7)

■ Youth­line: 0800 376 633

■ Kid­sline: 0800 543 754 (avail­able 24/7)

■ What­sup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

■ De­pres­sion helpline: 0800 111 757 (avail­able 24/7)

■ Rain­bow Youth: (09) 376 4155

■ Sa­mar­i­tans 0800 726 666

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

more than 10,000 calls a month, she said, some when sui­cide was im­mi­nent.

“With­out any govern­ment fund­ing, Life­line will strug­gle to keep up with de­mand,” she said.

She has set up a Givealit­tle page (Mana Whenua Hı¯koi), to which peo­ple can do­nate in recog­ni­tion of her jour­ney.

Jes­sica Rose Collins (left), wear­ing the ko­rowai made by her mother as a 21st birth­day gift, and best friend Ash He¯mi pre­pare to take on Ninety Mile Beach on the walk to raise aware­ness of sui­cide and en­cour­age a re­turn to more tra­di­tional ways of heal­ing.

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