Warning: This article is about suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

World-renowned lawyer Michael Mansfield hadn't thought much about suicide until his daughter took her life just over two years ago.

The death of his daughter, Anna, 44, a mother and wife, left the human rights barrister in shock; "Grief, anger and guilt, all of it was mixed in."

That experience led him and his partner, Yvette Greenway, determined to kickstart a wider conversation which they hoped might lead to better prevention.


Mansfield, QC, is in New Zealand and gave a keynote speech at the Criminal Bar Association Conference in Auckland last weekend.

He has appeared in some of the United Kingdom's biggest and most controversial criminal trials, appeals and inquiries including for the Hillsborough disaster; the Bloody Sunday shooting of unarmed protest marchers; the McLibel case brought against two campaigners by McDonald's; and he represented Mohamed Al-Fayed at the inquest into the death of Al-Fayed's son, Dodi, and Princess Diana in Paris in 1997.

The first indication he got of serious trouble in his daughter's life came the week before her death when she told her father she had been given notice a few weeks earlier from her job as a journalist.

Mansfield hadn't given suicide much thought, other than people shouldn't do it. It left him with a sense of how precarious mental wellbeing can be. It also revealed the stigma around suicide but also the need many felt to talk about it.

He spoke at Anna's wake about the fact she took her own life and was, he told the Herald, surprised by the reaction. "Quite a lot of people came up to me and said, 'You have talked about the elephant in the room and you must go on'."

He hadn't realised just how many people were affected by suicide or how many welcomed the chance to talk.

"We decided to go around the country and talk about it."

Greenway, who had lost a close friend to suicide six months earlier, became the organiser and chose the name SOS - Silence of Suicide.


They held the first meeting less than two months after Anna's death and have held 20 more since.

They will hold an SOS meeting in Auckland on Saturday, August 19 at the city centre building where the Herald is based.

Michael Mansfield with his partner Yvette Greenway was shocked by his own daughter's suicide. Photo / Dean Purcell
Michael Mansfield with his partner Yvette Greenway was shocked by his own daughter's suicide. Photo / Dean Purcell

Greenway: "The Herald's Break The Silence campaign has clearly broken the ice and we would like to extend that and to do it in a way that is unique in the United Kingdom, by bringing together in a safe space people who are thinking of committing suicide, people who have been bereaved by suicide, people who are stressed and people who just want to know more about the subject.

"The aim of the meetings is to enable people to talk and enable them to develop support networks.

"I had thought there would be reluctance to talk at these meetings but there never has," Greenway said.

The meetings were not about experts, or pundits, but about ordinary people.

"We want to get people opening up in a group environment and creating their own network of support which sometimes they don't have when they have been bereaved by suicide or when they are considering suicide."

Although in the same building as the Herald the meeting will not be open to reporting of any kind. Attendees can speak in confidence.

It will be held from 2pm-4pm Saturday, August 19, in the iHeart Lounge on the ground floor of NZME Central, 2 Graham St, Auckland.

Click here for more information.


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.


LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)