A new initiative has been started in the Central Hawke's Bay to provide a space for open discussion about the stress and distress that can lead to suicide or attempted suicide.
Registered nurse and senior firefighter with the Waipawa Volunteer Fire Brigade, Theresa Whiting, has started Te Haumanutanga - Nursing Change, an organisation developing suicide awareness, prevention, and postvention programmes and support.
One programme, Me Korero Tatou - 'We Should Talk", provides a safe space for people to talk, share and support one another. This is a free group, held at the Waipawa Fire Station.
Whiting says that as a nurse and firefighter, she sees a lot of stress and distress, and she recognises the need to help people manage and work through these stressors in a healthy way.
"Many health organisations today are recommending mental health programmes and services to build people up, helping them to be more emotionally resilient and agile, to help healthfully manage their stressors. There are people not coping in all walks of life, the haves and the have-nots. Each has their own different stressors, and both can lead to suicidal thinking.
"We need to wrap support around these people, and it needs to start in our own backyards."
Whiting cites two recent mental health enquiries - He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, (November 2018), and Whakamanawa: Honouring the voices and stories of Maori who submitted to the 2018 Government Inquiry into mental health and addiction in Aotearoa (December 13, 2018).
Both inquiries talk about a lack of appropriate support for people in mental distress.
"Both reports suggest communities can achieve more than they currently are," Whiting says.
"I believe keeping the subject of suicide on the down-low, keeping it quiet, is part of the problem. People feel ashamed, that they shouldn't talk, and they must 'tough it out'. It is outdated thinking! It's been a taboo subject for so long that it seems easier to keep it that way.
"Talking is not in our culture, but dialogue and problem solving are vital elements in dealing with anxiety and depression.
"Change can come from open and honest discussion."
Whiting has first-hand experience as someone bereaved by suicide, losing a friend in 2016 to suicide, and her brother in November 2018 to suicide.
"Suicide-bereaved whanau and families need support. Whanau and family are invariably left with more questions than answers. For our family, the only person who can answer our questions is my brother, and he's not talking any more.
"This personal loss has driven me and my sister in a new direction. We want to create change, be a part of the wrap-around support, part of the fence at the top of the hill.
"The latest coroner's report tells us that in 2017/2018, 668 people died from suicide. Compare this to when the statistics were first recorded 2007/2008. Then, 540 people died of suicide.
"No number is all right, ever. We are seeing an upward trend in suicide and mental distress, and this is very concerning.
"So where do you start? You start where you can, and you work your way forward," she says.
"We need to start in our own backyard, so this support group Me Korero Tatou is specific to CHB."
Whiting is registering Te Haumanutanga - Nursing Change as a charitable trust, to be able to fund events.
"We want to bring our korero to the schools, workplace, marae, anywhere we need to go to talk to people about healthy ways of dealing and managing stress, growing emotional resilience and agility.
"People need to know and believe that they can ask for help, and equally, people need to really listen to what is being said, give time and understanding.
"We need the community to come together and offer wrap-around support, for every member of our community, not just select groups. We don't need silos in this space.
Waipawa Volunteer Fire Brigade has already stepped up to help, by offering a venue for Me Korero Tatou to meet every Wednesday at the station, at 7.30pm. The entry is on the Waipawa Kindergarten side of the station.
"I want to emphasise one very important thing to the community. Please do not to let feelings of anger, shame or fear prevent you from turning up. This is a safe place to come and korero."
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 police immediately on 111.
Or if you need to talk to someone else:
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).
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7).
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155.
CASPER Suicide Prevention Lifelink/Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (available 24/7).
The Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254.
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.