Kerre McIvor
Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: World never better for a suicide

On Thursday night, my Facebook feed was filled with people mourning the death of Chris Cornell.

One of the pioneers of the grunge scene who came out of Seattle in the 1990s, Cornell was the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave and made the soundtrack to a generation's lives and loves.

Cornell was on a sell-out tour of the US with the reformed Soundgarden when he is believed to have taken his own life.

He had appeared a survivor when many of his contemporaries had fallen by the wayside, victims of the rock'n'roll lifestyle. Friends and fellow musicians had overdosed or killed themselves, but Cornell was happily married with two adored kids.

On Mother's Day, he posted a moving tribute to his wife on Twitter. This was a man who surely had it all.

What do we know?

It's the same week legendary league star Greg Inglis checked himself into a mental health facility as he battles with depression.

It's believed a serious injury, concerns about his future in league and the stress of living apart from his family while work keep him in Sydney led to his seeking professional help.

It was also this week mental-health crusader Mike King resigned from a government panel designed to reduce suicide, claiming it was deeply flawed and self-serving.

The Government's Draft Suicide Plan was released to the public last month, but King says the target of reducing suicides by 20 per cent has been dropped and replaced with statements so broad and vanilla he claimed they could mean everything and nothing at the same time.

He went on to say the strategy is so broad in its efforts to please everyone that it will collapse under the weight of public expectation and would please no one except bureaucrats and politicians.

Has there ever been a better critique of a government initiative?

Furthermore, he says, there has been no evaluation of previous suicide prevention strategies so there is no way of knowing which publicly funded services have worked.

He says the various government agencies involved in suicide prevention have no idea what each other is doing so they are doubling up in some areas and short in others.

Which confirms every prejudice you might have about the efficiencies of government departments.

The passionate campaigner hasn't given up the fight to save New Zealanders from themselves - he is just going to do it his way.

Good on him. We have a shocking suicide rate.

Compared with other OECD countries we are right up there when it comes to men and women taking their own lives. But the youth suicide rate is the most damning. At an age when young people should be realising the promise of their potential, when life should be full of adventure and excitement, our kids are choosing to kill themselves.

We topped all 34 countries in the OECD when it came to 15-24-year-olds committing suicide. That's an appalling indictment on this country.

I have never had to deal with a suicide in my family or friendship group but I have seen the devastation left behind when someone chooses death over life. It's like a bomb going off. The what ifs, the should haves, the could haves, the might haves are torturous and never ending.

The worst things for me are that the young ones didn't know the pain would pass, that what they were feeling at that dreadful time is not how they would feel forever. And that they believed the world would be a better place without them.

I cannot think of a single, solitary case where that has been true.

The Government needs to pay heed to Mike King and listen to his criticisms.

Suicide prevention requires a clear, cohesive action plan with targets and accountability. Not waffly, doublespeak from a quango more interested in protecting itself than vulnerable New Zealanders.

• Kerre McIvor is on NewstalkZB, Monday to Friday, noon to 4pm.

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 (1pm to 11pm)
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.

- Herald on Sunday

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