Wellington Scoop

600 pairs of shoes at Parliament to mark World Suicide Day

News from YeswecareNZ
606 pairs of shoes, each representing a Kiwi lost to suicide, arrived at Parliament in Wellington today on World Suicide Prevention Day. Two collections of shoes travelled 3000 km over fifteen days from Cape Reinga and Bluff to reach the capital.

The shoes visited more than twenty towns where locals bereaved by suicide added their loved ones shoes to the collections. Many of those families traveled to join the event today.

The Shoe Project is supported by YesWeCare.nz, a new health coalition, and the Public Service Association, New Zealand’s mental health union.

The collections started with 579 shoes, but 27 extra shoes were added after the Coroner released new suicide figures during the roadshow.

Included in the 606 shoes that families placed on parliament grounds are thirteen shoes for 10 – 14 year olds, 38 for teenages and 101 for people older than 60.

130 are for Maori. 475 shoes are for men.

Jane Stevens, who lost her son Nicky, 21, to suicide in 2015, traveled with the North Island collection. Her son’s body was found on 12 March 2015, three days after going missing from a mental health inpatient unit where he was a patient.

Ms Stevens says the shoes are a shattering visual reminder that has brought people to tears as “the loss becomes more real”.

“The 606 shoes are a heart stopping and powerful reminder of all those whanau we’ve lost in the last 12 months,” she says. “Our journey with them has been heart breaking, but also extraordinary.”

Stevens says her struggle with the loss of her son has been public, which wasn’t initially their families choice.

“We were proud of our son, we would never hide his struggle and by going public we were trying to honour him,” she says.

Ms Stevens has been a vocal advocate for an urgent independent inquiry into New Zealand’s mental health crisis.

77% of New Zealanders and all political parties, except National and Act, support an inquiry.

“We realised that silence wasn’t helping to create change and unless people were brave enough to speak out, this cycle was going to continue and more people were going to die,” she says.

She says many bereaved families are blamed, intimidated, and silenced.

“It was bloody hard for us to get through that stigma at first, but in the end it fired our determination to seek change,” she says. “Speaking out has provided safety and inspired others to start to share their stories, which is what today event is all about.”
Stevens say her family spent seven “desperate” years trying to get help for her son.

“We realised Government underfunding meant there were huge gaps in what safe and adequate mental health services were available and it wasn’t just our family falling through the gaps,” she says.

“We’re passionate and desperate to see change so other communities don’t have the same life shattering experienced we’ve had.”