Suicide scourge prompts 668km trek
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.