Mum of 10-year-old suicide victim speaks out

Oliver Nicolson, described as a "sensitive sweetheart" and a "deep thinker", died in 2009. Photo / Supplied
Oliver Nicolson, described as a "sensitive sweetheart" and a "deep thinker", died in 2009. Photo / Supplied

The mum of a 10-year-old who took his own life says it's time for parents to slow down and talk to their children about emotions to help prevent further tragedy.

Oliver Nicolson, described as a "sensitive sweetheart" and a "deep thinker", killed himself in 2009 and was found by his older sister.

His family believed he was being bullied as he was reluctant to go to school at the time, but don't think he would have realised what his actions truly meant. A coroner subsequently ruled there was an element of premeditation involved in Oliver's death.

Mother Sue Nicolson spoke out today in the wake of another suspected child suicide, saying it had taken her a long time to get strong enough to discuss her son's death, but she had a message to get across.

"We need to develop resilience in our kids," she said. "We need to be mindful, and observant and not get caught up in our own lives or money troubles.

As parents, we are always in a hurry and we need to slow down."

Mrs Nicolson said since Oliver's death, she had wondered time and again if she spent enough time with him, the youngest of four children.

"I ask myself, did we make the right choices, did I give them enough time? And now I'm making sure to do that with my other children."

A trained early childhood teacher, she said she saw "so many" parents rushing around, in a hurry for kids to grow up.

"It seems like we're either wrapping kids in cotton wool and not letting them bounce - or sending them to events, to before school care, after school care. The only quality time we have under the same roof is when we're sleeping."

Being in a rush meant less time for talking, she said. New Zealand already had a long history of not talking about problems, particularly if they involved emotions.

"We don't talk about stuff as a community. We're embarrassed. We're scared of it, and we pass that on to our kids," Mrs Nicolson said.

"We also hide a lot of our emotions. And so children don't know who to talk to anymore."
Ms Nicolson said she and her colleagues talked a lot about what they could do for children.

"We need to give our kids the words for our feelings. A kid doesn't know what an emotion is until we've taught them, And if we're not willing to talk about it then they don't know how to talk about it."

She also believed it was important to teach children to deal with losses or failure, and allowing children to lose instead of rewarding them for participation.

"Otherwise, they aren't learning how to fall over and pick themselves up - to experience little things so they can deal with bigger things when they happen."

She said while not everyone may agree with her, the issue was not going away.

"I think it's time to have the conversation. So many people have lost loved ones and we have to start talking about it.

"People aren't going to kill themselves because we're talking about killing yourself, they're going to do it because they think there is no help out there. So we need to talk about it, say we're here, and raise awareness."

Mrs Nicolson's comments follow several other child suicide cases, including the suspected self-inflicted death of 12-year-old Kyana Vergara, from Palmerston North home on January 11.

Family members believe Kyana had also been the victim of bullying - in her case an element of premeditation to Oliver's death. Kyana's death has been referred to the coroner.

Last year in total 564 people committed suicide in New Zealand, including 10 children between the ages of 10 and 14. The first suicide of a child aged between 5-9 appeared in 2012.

At the time Chief Coroner Neil Maclean said suicide had to be "brought out of the shadows" and he was worried by the increases in certain demographics.

"I am concerned that we seem to be making no impact - there has been no visible downward trend at all. Our job is to tell the public the facts - I am no more qualified to suggest an answer or a solution than anyone.

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• The Word
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- NZ Herald

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