Empty shoes symbolising the 579 people who fell victim to suicide last year are making their way from the top and bottom of the country to end up on Parliament’s steps.
The Shoe Project will kick off on Sunday in Aotea Square, Whangarei and Invercargill with 579 pairs of shoes each.
The footwear will travel around the country before ending up on Parliament’s steps on September 10. A public meeting will be held the day after for bereaved families to talk about the change they want to see in the presence of politicians.
Recycle Boutique manager Lisa Wright has lost four young family members to suicide as well as her partner’s older brother. They were all young men and she’s passionate about speaking out to help them.
“It’s a horrible thing. So many people I know have ended their life.
“No one wants to talk about it, it’s such a taboo and stigma… There’s just not enough help out there to ensure this doesn’t happen.”
Wright’s workplace donated shoes to the project and Wright herself will be at the event on Sunday.
More than 200 families who have personally felt the devastation of suicide are involved in the campaign.
Project spokesman Simon Oosterman said they are campaigning for a suicide prevention target and an independent inquiry into the country’s mental health crisis.
“Not many people realise 579 people [committed suicide] in 2016, that’s a record number. When you see it it really hits you how many people we’re missing. It can be distressing for people but we need to talk about it.
“The majority of people who commit suicide need help and it’s not there.”
Three mums who lost their young sons to suicide have written an open letter in support of Yes We Care’s six election pledges. One of those mums, Patrice Harrex, lost her 25-year-old son Brad Anderson when he was released from hospital despite saying he wanted to take his own life. Two days later he was dead.
“If I was the health minister I would be hanging my head in shame and pulling my hair out thinking ‘what the hell are we going to do about this?,” Harrex said. “It’s time for action.”
The letter urged the Government to acknowledge there was a mental health crisis, provide support and do something about it.
Budget 2017 has set aside an extra $224 million for mental health, including $124m for new approaches.
Prime Minister Bill English recently advocated for online therapy to address the country’s high suicide rate.
The shoes will be set up for the project’s launch at Auckland’s Aotea Square, Whangarei’s Canopy Bridge and at the Gala St entrance to Queens Park in Invercargill at midday on Sunday. The footwear will be blessed at Bluff and Cape Reinga with the bereaved families in a private ceremony on Saturday.
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
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 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• 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 like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.