On the front foot against suicide
12 people who have died by suicide.
On Saturday, she joined Kiwis from both ends of the country to kickstart a campaign to boost awareness of the issue.
At both Cape Reinga and Bluff, 579 pairs of empty shoes were put on display, a stark illustration of the number of Kiwis who committed suicide in 2016. Similar displays will make their way across both islands over the next month, culminating in a final event held outside Parliament on September 10.
Yeswecare.nz, which is organising the shoe campaign, wants the government to hold an urgent inquiry into the state of New Zealand’s mental health, and set a suicide prevention target.
According to statistics provided by Coronial Services, suicide rates have remained steady at 12 per 100,000 over the past 10 years. While this figure is above average compared to the World Health Organisation’s global figure of 10.7, New Zealand’s teen suicide rate is the highest in the developed world.
The Canterbury DHB reported the most suicides in 2016, with 78 (the next highest was Waikato DHB with 55).
Since her first experience with suicide in 2010, Purdue has gone through guilt, grief and her own battle with depression.
‘‘It was horrific, I felt guilty and have lived in self-blame for a long time,’’ she said.
Having gone through her own struggle with depression after the birth of her son, Purdue said having people around to support her was critical.
‘‘I needed someone to come to me, because I didn’t know how to say that I was depressed. You’re just in this absolute turmoil and you’re really not thinking straight,’’ she said.
Eventually a friend who had also suffered depression recognised what she was struggling with, Purdue said.
Purdue said she is determined to use her experience to help others, and is planning to start a community project to help those affected by mental health issues.
‘‘It’s time to break the silence. Love is the key, we just need to be there for our friends and family and the people in our community, in the best way we can.’’ ❚ The Shoe Project will be in Oamaru on Wednesday August 30, 11am-2pm. Check the Facebook page for details.
Jess Purdue says having friends who supported her made all the difference in her own struggle with depression. ‘‘If you feel like you have people who understand you, it takes away that intense feeling of you being alone.’’