Topic: Health

Suicide watch a stark reality in Te Tai Rāwhiti

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

With New Zealand suicide rates at an all-time high, workers on the ground in small regions like the Tai Rāwhiti say they're at a disadvantage to get support services.

Something Hayley Grace-Hollis has experienced after recently losing four siblings to suicide.

"People don't commit suicide because they want to end their lives. They do it but because they want to end their pain, our family members that we lost they loved us they loved their kids and their parents it's just that they were going through some things that they didn't know how to get through," says Grace-Hollis.

After their deaths, the family didn't know where to turn to for help, and the help they did receive she says was inadequate. 

She says, "I had a counsellor but they just had a piece of paper and treated me like a job, I wasn't really a person I didn't feel like I was, I just felt like I was treated like a job. They were just there to get paid and see ya later because I didn't get anything out of it."  

Community group Ka Pai Kaiti based in the Kaiti Mall in Gisborne say it's four staff are on suicide watch duties every week, monitoring suicidal people 24/7 to keep them safe from self-harming.

"It's getting worse this year, we're probably looking about 40-50 that are on suicide watch," says Tuta Ngarimu of Ka Pai Kaiti. 

She says, "When something happens they throw all this money but it seems to go to Wellington and doesn't get out to the regions like us and our disadvantage for being here is our population."

"Seriously, suicide needs to have its own set up in parliament its own portfolio specifically for suicide," says Ngarimu.

Labour leader Jacinda Arden paid a visit to Ka Pai Kaiti this week and said her party would make sure every high school would have mental health support.

"I keep getting asked, do you have a target for suicide? Yes, zero," said Arden.

"Committing to zero suicide in Aotearoa that is a pretty brave statement to be making for anybody so I'd be pretty interested to see if she does get into parliament and how that is going to look," says Ngarimu.

One thing that they all agree on is that there needs to more awareness raised.

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
• 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)