A suicide support group leader says Whanganui has been "inundated" by suicides this year but people who have lost a loved one do not have to cope alone.

Bonnie Lethaby, of the Support Group for those Bereaved by Suicide Wanganui, said anyone affected by suicide is welcome to join the group. There are about 20 members and numbers have increased this year.

"This year we have had a few more people because Whanganui has been inundated by suicides - there are way too many.

"It is strictly a support group, not a counselling group, so it's open-ended and people come and go. A lot of them leave for a while then come back to make sure what they are going through is a normal part of grieving.


"Everyone in the group has lost at least one person to suicide. We have monthly meetings where we tell our stories to anyone new so they know we are all in the same boat."

Mrs Lethaby said the group's biennial candle lighting ceremony brings people together to remember loved ones and anyone affected by suicide is welcome to attend the next service on November 14.

"People may choose to do a reading or share a thought and then we light four big candles. The first represents grief where the pain of losing a loved one is intense. The second is for courage to confront sorrow and comfort yourself. The third represents the memory of loved ones and the times you laughed, the times you cried. The fourth is for a life of love.

"Everyone then lights a tealight candle from one of the four big candles and we put them on a shelf. It looks stunning. We have a reflection time and speak on the seven steps of coping with loss. There is a PowerPoint presentation with photos and first names of people's loved ones. At the end of the ceremony we write our loved ones' names on helium balloons and release them en masse outside which looks absolutely stunning."

People may think their loss occurred too recently or too long ago so they should not attend the ceremony, Mrs Lethaby said.

"It doesn't matter if it happened yesterday or 100 years ago, everyone is welcome. We are so grateful to Dempsey and Forrest who are absolutely fantastic. They have got our back all the time and often refer people to us."

The candle lighting ceremony is at 7pm on Tuesday, November 14, at Dempsey and Forrest funeral home. It is a non-denominational service. Contact Bonnie Lethaby on 343 7573 or James Forrest on 349 0202 for more information.

The support group's 24-hour helpline number is 027 684 3386 (texts are welcome). People can also contact Bonnie Lethaby on 343 7573. The support group's website is www.bereaved-by-suicide.org.nz

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 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.