579 shoes, representing each Kiwi lost to suicide in 2016, start their journey to parliament from Whangarei, Auckland and Invercargill today.
The shoes will be setup at the Canopy bridge in Whangarei and the Gala Street entrance to Queens Park in Invercargill from 11am.
A separate collection of shoes will travel around Auckland, starting in Aotea Square at 11am.
Events are listed at: http://facebook.com/yeswecare.nz/events/
The shoes were blessed in Bluff and Cape Reinga yesterday.
They will travel across the country and arrive on parliament grounds on September 10, International Suicide Prevention Day.
The North and South Island collections have shoes for eight children aged 10 to 14, 51 teenagers, 419 adults and 101 older adults over sixty who lost their lives.
70% are men’s shoes.
17 are gumboots for farmers and farm workers.
In each town a bereaved local will share a personal story about loss and the hope they have for a change in government policy.
Each speaker, many who have never shared their story before, will hold a pair of their loved ones shoes.
The YesWeCare.nz health funding coalition and the Public Service Association, New Zealand’s mental health union, is supporting the events.
YesWeCare.nz coordinator Simon Oosterman says bereaved families want politicians to have the courage to put politics aside and “do what’s right”.
“Hearing the number 579 is shocking, seeing 579 empty shoes is something else ,” he says. “Too many of our loved ones are reaching out for help and not getting support because our mental health services are in crisis.”
Oosterman says families are calling for a national suicide reduction target, an urgent independent inquiry into our mental health crisis and restore $2.3b of funding needed to cover our ageing and growing population since 2008.
Jonathan Coleman vetoed setting a suicide reduction target.
National refuses to hold an independent inquiry despite 77% of New Zealanders wanting one, he says.
“The gap between demand and funding is growing as funding hasn’t kept up with our ageing and growing population with increased mental health needs,” he says. “Demand for mental health services have increased by 60% since 2008 with funding to 2017 only increased by half that.”
The Government announced an addition 1.2% in funding in the March Budget.
This includes a $225m fund including $100m for social investment.
But analysis by the doctors union (ASMS) found the Government was only putting $18m of new money in for 2017/18.
Oosterman says with demand expected to be 7.3% this year, the Government has cut funding in real terms even further.
Two bereaved New Zealanders are supporting families in each island.
Jane Stevens, from Waikato, is supporting the North Island events.
Mrs Steven’s son Nicky, 21, went missing from a mental health inpatient unit on 9 March 2015.
His body was found on 12 March.
Diane Hill, from Nelson, is supporting the South Island events.
Mrs Hill lost her husband Jake, 45, on 22 October 2014.
She says her husband, “a typical bloke” who worked up until his death, was also let down by an underfunded mental health system.
Stevens is carrying a pair of her son’s shoes with her across the country and Hill is carrying her husbands work boots.
Oosterman says the campaign will announce which parties support bereaved families political demands on Tuesday 29 August at the Hamilton shoe event.
The event will be held at Nicky Stevens memorial besides the Waikato river where his body was found.
Mrs Stevens and her husband, Waikato DHB board member Dave McPherson, were the first to publicly call for an independent inquiry.
Bereaved families from across the country will meet with politicians face to face on September 11 in an intimate meeting open to the media to talk about loss and their hope for change.
September 11 is the first day of advanced voting.
Volunteers donate shoes across the country.
Shoes will be donated to charity after the roadshow finishes.
Key facts, including suicide numbers by age and gender and region can be found at http://yeswecare.nz/the-shoe-project/facts
Event dates can be found at http://facebook.com/yeswecare.nz/events/
Yes We Care’s six election pledges
Set a suicide reduction target
Hold a mental health inquiry
Restore $2.3b in health funding
Increase primary health, GP funding
Commit to safe staffing
Make every home healthy
Jane Stevens and Diane Hall and families in each town are available for interview through YesWeCare.nz coordinator Simon Oosterman on 027 526 8704.