A string of suspected suicides in Rotorua this year has prompted experts to speak out, and a group of locals to form a new support trust. There were nine suicides in the Lakes District Health Board area in the 2017-2018 year, but provisional figures suggest that annual total could grow even higher for 2018-2019.
An increase in suspected suicides in Rotorua in recent months has prompted locals to beg for change.
New provisional figures released to the Rotorua Daily Post show 15 people were suspected to have killed themselves in the 15 months to March 2019.
Of the 15 deaths, 10 men died and five women.
Men younger than 40 and woman over 60 were the most at risk with seven of these men and three of these women dying. The youngest was a girl between 10 and 14.
Coroner Wallace Bain said this was "disturbing".
"We live in the most beautiful country in the world and we have got the highest suicide and child abuse rates. Why is that?"
He said social factors such as poverty, family violence and mental health issues were key factors.
"Perhaps with the Government putting more money into mental health that is a good start so I congratulate them for doing that."
Coroner Bain said social media played a part in some youth suicides and young people needed more help.
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"They need to see someone when there's an issue, not a month down the track."
He urged families to keep talking to their children.
"You have to make the effort to interact more because a lot of these kids aren't coming from proper family situations."
Funeral director Richard Fullard, who owns Osbornes Funeral Directors and Advisors in Rotorua, said taking a service for someone who had committed suicide was heartbreaking.
He said it was hard to find "a way to communicate with respect the very early stages of shock and grief families are in".
Fullard said ensuring bereaved families felt supported and educated about where they could access help was also a part of the process.
"Exposure to a suicide can be direct, if it is an immediate family member who has died, or indirect, through gossip and social media, and we all have a role to play to understand and respect that.
"We are aware of the contagion effect around young people who die by suicide, and the effect on their family, friends and other young people, and we have seen it far too many times in the last year."
Fullard said young people needed to know they were loved.
"We want you to talk to each other, to reach out when you need help. We need you to, we love you all, you are all special. A person's life amounts to more than their suicide."
Rotorua police acting area commander Inspector Brendan Keenan said police had noticed an increase in callouts for not only suicides but also mental health-related incidents in recent weeks.
"There are a lot of services out there but sometimes it's just a matter of getting people in front of those services at the right time."
He said gloomy winter weather often made things tougher for people.
Patua Te Taniwha Charitable Trust forms
Patua Te Taniwha - Fight the monster - is the name of a new Rotorua charitable trust set up to support whānau affected by suicide.
Chairwoman Mataku-Ariki de Roo gave up her job in early childhood education to focus on getting the charitable trust established.
The seven founding members are aiming to start a support group with weekly kōrero, as well as holding four events in the next year, the first of which will be the "Hīkoi for Life" this weekend.
Confirmed speakers include Cliff Curtis, Steve Chadwick, Turanga Merito and Kahira Rata Olley, and Krissie Knapp will be the MC.
The trust's focus is on "stopping the silence and stigma" by encouraging others to talk about suicidal feelings and thoughts and helping connect others with support available.
Their events will include exercise, music, art, and celebration - methods that have helped the founding members and their whānau deal with the effects of suicide and suicidal thoughts.
"We can't always rely on the bigwigs to help, it's got to start at home," de Roo said.
"After my father committed suicide in 2002, I could only get six counselling sessions and that was not enough. Yes, the new Budget is helping address this problem, but there are ways we can be proactive ourselves."
Koha from the events will be collected by the trust and then allocated to supporting whānau bereaved by suicide deal with the financial strain, and future events.
The hīkoi this Saturday will be from 10am to 2pm at the Village Green.
Local support services such as Manaaki Ora, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao and Korowai Aroha Health Centre will be there.
Participants are encouraged to bring photos of their loved ones, for the memorial display.
There will be a free sausage sizzle, bottled water and fruit, and children's games.
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
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757