INVESTIGATES II: Suicide Prevention

Friends, suicide and depression are destressing topics. However, it is also for some; a bleak reality. Within our own lives, in the past couple of weeks, we’ve known of two people who took their own lives. 

As you may be aware, NZ has one of the highest rates for sucide in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in particular youth suicide. 

For these reasons, as well as feeling extremely troubled and saddened by these numbers, we are going to do the only thing a podcast can do, talk about it. As such, True Crime NZ has decided to investigate the growing problem and see what we as a collective can do, if anything, to prevent further suicide attempts. 

If you are suffering from depression, suicidal ideation or just need someone to talk to; resources are available:

FOR NZ:

Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline 0800 543 354 or 09 522 2999 or free text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Prevention Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOK0)

Youthline 0800 376 633 or free text 234

Samaritans 0800 726 666.

IF ELSEWHERE:

Visit https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/ to find your country.

Hosted by Jessica Rust

Written and edited by Sirius Rust

Music sourced from:

Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
https://filmmusic.io/
Music for Manatees”

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but we have made a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.

INVESTIGATES II: Suicide Prevention

NOTE:

This episode contains references to suicide and is a stark conversation about the realities of this dreadful act. Please consider your own mental wellbeing before listening.

Also, this is an updated and reworked version of a script written for World Suicide Prevention Day in 2019. There is a reference to us (the writers) knowing two people who had taken their lives in the past two weeks. This was true at the time of writing in 2019, yet, we have chosen to keep it in this updated version of the script as it underlines the reality of suicide and how it affects everyone that knew the person.

INTRODUCTION

Friends, suicide and depression are destressing topics. However, it is also for some; a bleak reality. Within our own lives, in the past couple of weeks, we’ve known of two people who took their own lives. 

As you may be aware, NZ has one of the highest rates for sucide in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in particular youth suicide. 

For these reasons, as well as feeling extremely troubled and saddened by these numbers, we are going to do the only thing a podcast can do, talk about it. As such, True Crime NZ has decided to investigate the growing problem and see what we as a collective can do, if anything, to prevent further suicide attempts. 

DATA

Data compiled on the World Suicide Prevention Day website indicates that many of you may be facing similar distressing circumstances, the website writes, “Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds”.

The report continues, explaining how suicide has wide reaching influence that affects the minds of everyone it reaches, it affects more than just the person commiting the act, “For each suicide approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. This amounts to 108 million people per year who are profoundly impacted by suicidal behaviour. Suicidal behaviour includes suicide, and also encompases suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide”.

A document complied by the Office of the Chief Coroner of New Zealand in 2020 showed that 654 people had committed suicide in Aotearoa in the past year, while disturbingly high, this was actually a decrease of 31 deaths from the year prior, the Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall commented on these statistics, “While it is encouraging to see the suspected suicide rate and number drop for the past year, it’s important to remember that there are still more than 650 families who have lost someone in tragic circumstances… My sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who died by suspected suicide in the past year.”

Using the data cited before, that means an estimated 88,290 people suffered ‘intense grief’ last year in NZ due to suicide, that is around 2% of the total population. However it must be noted that number is a low estimate as it doesn’t take into account suicides that happened overseas that inflicted suffering on those who cared about them in Aotearoa.

So, why is this happening? It is hard to pinpoint; depression and mental health is complex. There are contributing societal factors also to consider, one factor, according to statistics, is financial hardship. Around 1 in 5 children grow up in NZ in relative income poverty. According to Dr Prudence Stone of Unicef NZ poverty plays a large role in a suicidal persons despondancy, “The high suicide rate ties in with other data, showing for instance child poverty, high rates of teenage pregnancies or families where neither of the parents have work.” 

Adding to this, a Unicef report found that NZ’s growing inequality may also be a contributing factor. A 2017 Stuff.co.nz/Massey University Election survey of 39,644 people between the ages of 18-70+ found that around half of those surveyed thought that NZ was not “a land of equal opportunity”, and furthermore 73% thought that inequality in Aotearoa was “too high and/or growing fast”.

Dr Stone also believes that the data suggests NZ’s ‘harden up mate’ culture also plays a role in NZ’s high suicide rates in men, “It puts pressure on men to be of a particular mould, pressure on boys to harden up to become these tough beer-drinking hard men”.

According to Shaun Robinson of the Mental Health Foundations New Zealand, bullying plays a big role in NZ’s high youth suicide rate; in fact the highest in the OECD. Shaun goes on to explain that a ‘toxic mix’ of high rates of family violence, child abuse and child poverty also play a role, “The country is not doing a good job of supporting its young people to be able to manage the pressure, the stresses, the emotional and mental challenges that they are facing,”

David Hurn, the father of teen Kaleb Hurn who committed suicide in 2014 at 17-years-old told Stuff.co.nz in 2017 that he believes that a number of factors plays into a persons decision to commit suicide, including a lack of social skills and face-to-face interactions, an ingrained fear of failure and the fear of being different, “We need to show our kids it’s OK to be different… there’s nothing wrong with failing and it’s OK to make mistakes… It’s building up that resilience.”

In 2016, in a different interview with Stuff.co.nz, David Hurn expressed his feelings on suicide’s taboo nature and how suicide and its prevention techniques are rarely spoken about in public, “It’s being swept under the carpet. It’s still perceived to be the ultimate sin and a huge shame… Now’s the time. It’s time to start telling the story, it’s time to start having the discussion… We’ve all whispered about it…enough’s enough… A problem shared is a problem halved.”

SUICIDE PREVENTION

New Zealand’s suicide prevention strategy is outlined in the 2019 document dubbed Every Life Matters. The documents goals are outlined in an introduction to the piece written by, at the time, Minister of Health David Clark, “Every Life Matters outlines a number of focus areas and actions to reduce suicide in New Zealand. But there is one goal at the core. No suicide. One death by suicide is one death too many. Every life matters. I am confident that this strategy will make the difference needed to reduce our suicide rate and make a real difference to the lives of New Zealanders, whānau and families, and communities”.

The document contains ‘action areas’ for the Government to develop greater resources and research for their citizens on suicide prevention, but contains some very practical and useful information under the ‘Responding to suicidal distress’ heading, “It is not uncommon for people to feel overwhelmed, to see no way out or to have no hope that things can be different. Sometimes people are scared of their suicidal thoughts or worried that they will act on them. Thinking about suicide is common, but not everyone who thinks about suicide goes on to develop a plan or act on it. Being able to recognise early signs of distress or that someone is thinking about suicide or self-harm and having the confidence to talk to that person about their thoughts, can open a door to early intervention and support before the person becomes more distressed. These skills are particularly important for whānau, families and communities to have”.

“Early intervention, when someone may be at risk of or experiencing distress, is important. Options for support need to be culturally-appropriate, wide-ranging, flexible and responsive to the needs of each person seeking help. NGOs, kaupapa Māori services, services by Pacific peoples for Pacific peoples, primary health organisations (PHOs) and DHBs can provide a range of pathways of support that are accessible at the earliest opportunity. Similarly, the Police and ambulance services have an important role as first responders to many people experiencing suicidal distress and should be supported to continue to enhance responses for the people they serve. Supporting and responding to those who self-harm with compassion and understanding fosters more positive outcomes and offers a healing pathway that can reduce suicidal distress”.

KEVIN HINES

To support the concept of ‘a healing pathway’ we will be looking at a documentary about the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco dubbed The Bridge. For one year, the documentarians went to the bridge and filmed the famous suicide spot, stopping many jumpers, yet capturing many suicide attempts on film also. The filmmakers would then track down the families to provide information on the person who jumped. While not an easy watch, it is a stunning piece of filmmaking and very illuminating on this tough topic. 

Fig 1. The Bridge Trailer

In the film there is a story from a man named Kevin Hines, a teenager who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge on the 25th of September 2000.

Kevin spoke about his experience at the Golden Gate Bridge to ABC 7 in 2017, “I was hearing voices in my head saying ‘I need to die,’ getting louder and louder… I thought I had to go, I thought I was my family’s greatest burden, I thought I was useless”. 

Kevin goes on to explain that as soon as he jumped, he knew he didn’t want to die, “The millisecond my legs cleared it, the millisecond of true free fall, instant regret for my actions… I just vaulted over, and I realized, at that moment, this is the stupidest thing I could have done. Everything could have changed.”. 

Somehow, against all odds, Kevin didn’t die. He free-fell at 120kph, 68m straight down into the San Francisco Bay below, breaking his back as he breached the water, “I shattered my T12, L1 and L2 lower vertebrae upon impact… I missed severing my spinal cord by two millimeters.”

Kevin desperately made his way to the surface, “I remember thinking very clearly, ‘Kevin you can’t die here, if you die here, no one will ever know that you didn’t want to. No one will ever know that you knew you made a mistake.’ And I broke the surface”.

Kevin now works full time working to prevent suicide through his charity with his wife the Kevin and Margaret Hines Foundation. You can hear the rest of this story by seeking out The Bridge or just ‘googling’ Kevin Hines to hear him speak. Kevin serves as a testament to the remarkable human capability to recover from crippling mental anguish, find purpose in life and use what we learnt to help others.

CONCLUSION

“Fuck it, nobody cares”, was the sentiment shared by Kevin just before he jumped. We at True Crime NZ wrote this episode to show that we do care. Depression is something we have both suffered from at times in our lives, and we both have struggled with suicidal ideation. For these reasons, among countless others, we have immense empathy for the people currently afflicted by depression and other mental health disorders.

Now, we are going to do something that we vowed not to do on this podcast, give an opinion. Our opinion is this: kindness is important in society. In our opinion, being kind is very underrated. In our darkest days, the kindness of others, even strangers, was what helped pull us through while we wrestled with those dark thoughts. The kindness and understanding of the doctors, friends and family when we finally asked for help, was what, we believe, began our journey of healing.

If you are affected by depression or are going through a time where you are thinking about self-harm. I have linked some resources in the sources below, or feel free to contact us at contact@truecrimenz.com and remember, we love you and care about you. 

Peace and love my friends,
The team at True Crime NZ

SOURCES

Internet Articles
BBC News, What’s behind New Zealand’s shocking youth suicide rate?, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40284130
Ministry of Social Development, The Social Report 2016 – Te pūrongo oranga tangata, http://socialreport.msd.govt.nz/health/suicide.html
Ministry of Health, Suicide Facts: 2016 data (provisional), https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/suicide-facts-2016-data-provisional
Newstalk ZB, NZ has highest death rate for teenagers in developed world, https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/kerre-mcivor-mornings/audio/nathan-wallis-new-zealand-ranks-bottom-of-developed-countries-on-youth-mortality-rates/
World Suicide Prevention Day, Home, https://www.iasp.info/wspd2019/
ABC 7 News, Second Chances: ‘I survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge’, https://abc7news.com/society/second-chances-i-survived-jumping-off-the-golden-gate-bridge/2010562/
Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand needs to talk about suicide, bereaved dad says, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/80129256/new-zealand-needs-to-talk-about-suicide-bereaved-dad-says
Stuff.co.nz, ‘Completely broken’? Widening inequality fuels discontent among Kiwis, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/93679813/grant-duncan-widening-inequality-fuels-high-level-of-discontent-among-kiwis?cn=bWVudGlvbg%3D%3D
Stuff.co.nz, Unicef releases damning child welfare report, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/93705446/unicef-releases-damning-child-welfare-report
Wikipedia, Kevin Hines, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Hines

DOCUMENTS
Ministry of Health, Every Life Matters He Tapu te Oranga o ia tangata, https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/suicide-prevention-strategy-2019-2029-and-plan-2019-2024-v2.pdf
Coronial Services of New Zealand, CHIEF CORONER RELEASES ANNUAL PROVISIONAL SUICIDE FIGURES, https://coronialservices.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/Chief-Coroner-Suicide-Stats-2020-Media-Release.pdf

VIDEO
Dir. Eric Steel, The Bridge, 2006

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