A mother whose only son committed suicide at 17 has challenged Aucklanders to be as sympathetic as people in smaller places to surviving families of suicide victims.
Maria Bradshaw, the mother of Takapuna Grammar student Toran Henry who committed suicide five years ago next month, spoke at a special meeting of Auckland Council's social and community development forum yesterday about how the council could help with mental health and suicide prevention.
She said Aucklanders needed to think about they way they responded to a suicide.
"Losing a child to suicide is a very different experience in Auckland than in many of the other places around the country," she said.
"On the North Shore, that means that people crossed the road to avoid talking to me. That means the annual street party we used to have in my street before Christmas was cancelled because people didn't want to connect with me.
"In other areas of the country people are surrounded by love and support and a lot of kindness.
We need to ask ourselves what is happening in our city."
Since Toran's death Ms Bradshaw has set up an organisation supporting other bereaved families, Casper, and raised $90,000 in corporate sponsorship for it last year from Mike Pero, Vodafone, Telstra and other companies. She does not get any Government funding and did not ask the council for any.
But she said the council could help to build community cohesion of the kind that Christchurch people felt after the earthquake and Aucklanders felt during the Rugby World Cup.
"Suicide prevention is about how we all relate to each other on a day to day basis," she said.
Provisional figures released by the Chief Coroner show that 137 people committed suicide in the Auckland region in the year to last June. That was 25 per cent of the national tally of 547, lower than Auckland's 34 per cent share of the population.
Suicide Prevention Information NZ manager Moira Clunie told the forum that New Zealand's overall suicide rate was around the average for developed countries, but the country's youth suicide rate was the second-highest for young women and fourth-highest for young men.
Ms Bradshaw said the Auckland Council should set a target to reduce that toll as a way of focusing on things it could do to help.
"Set a target of a 20 per cent reduction," she suggested.
"There are some really practical things that Auckland Council could do to stop the culture that when your neighbour's child hangs themselves in the garage you stop speaking to them, when in Temuka people will come over with casseroles and flowers."
Where to get help
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight)
• The Word
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (8am to midnight)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.By Simon Collins Email Simon