606 pairs of shoes, representing each Kiwi lost to suicide from July 2016 to June 2017, started their journey to parliament from Cape Reinga, Auckland and Bluff on Saturday 26 August.
On Tuesday 5 September, the Pukekohe Town Square was a resting stop for those shoes.
The shoes travelled across the country and arrived on parliament grounds on Sunday 10 September, International Suicide Prevention Day.
The theme for this year is ‘take a minute, change a life’. It is the simple idea that offering a gentle word of support or simply listening can make a world of difference to someone who is struggling.
New Zealand has the highest youth (20-24 year old) suicide rates in the developed world. It’s a silent epidemic. The YesWeCare.nz health funding coalition and the Public Service Association wish to raise awareness of the serious effects of under funding in public health services.
Through the shoe project, they hope to encourage the public to vote for parties who support their health pledges in this year’s election.
Liz Roozendaal, a Pukekohe resident and Yeswecare.nz coordinator said the 606 pairs of empty shoes symbolise the holes left in families and communities when loved ones commit suicide.
“The effect on our community in Pukekohe on Tuesday 5 September was sobering. We had many people come and share their stories, and support the work we’re doing to raise awareness of this epidemic, and to drive change.”
“One woman sadly could lay claim to six pairs of these shoes over the last two years; all young men. A group of teen girls said whilst they didn’t know anyone who had died, they knew of people who had considered it.
“We’ve got to do better. We’re doing it for road safety, we need to do it for Suicide Prevention—the road toll at 367 is close to half the 606 who took their own life.”
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 606 is shocking, seeing 606 pairs of empty shoes is something else,” he said. “Too many of our loved ones reaching out for help are not getting support because our mental health services are in crisis.” What are your thoughts on the tragedies affecting our communities? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE TO GET HELP: If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111. If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 • LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 • NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737 • SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666 • YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234 • Help is also available through local counselling agencies: Hope Unlimited Trust: 09 -239 1823 • Franklin Family Support: 09-238 6233 • Huakina Development Trust : 09-238 0250