The End!

*Emotional trigger warning – content involves suicide*

11th June 2019

My last blog, on my last day in New Zealand!

I can’t believe it’s also the last day of my six-week Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship, researching Suicide Prevention here and in Australia too. It has gone so quickly.

I must admit, this last week in Christchurch has been the toughest. I have been a little homesick, not helped by many WIFI problems, so struggling to contact home. Christchurch is also in the throes of winter and still recovering from the earthquakes eight years ago, whilst reeling from the very recent terrorist attacks in March of this year.

However, I have met some fantastic organisations and individuals doing amazing things for suicide prevention and young people.

I first met with Laila Cooper, CEO, and Sandi Malcolm, Service Manager, from Christchurch Primary Health Organisation (PHO). The PHO funds GP’s. So, people pay to see the doctor in New Zealand, but it’s a copayment, and the PHO funds practices to provide subsidised services and other health services. Interestingly, the I learned that people living in Christchurch, particularly those who were young children during the earthquakes eight years ago, are showing a decline in their mental health. This presents as high levels of anxiety and trauma related symptoms. People have also been re-traumatised by the terrorist attacks in March 2019, which rocked the nation. The PHO heavily praised the work of ‘298 Youth Health Centre’ headed by Susan Bagshaw, that I will talk about later, and they feel that Christchurch really came together as a community in the wake of the traumatic events of recent years, especially after the terrorist attack.

(L-R) Laila Cooper – CEO, Naomi Watkins – CEO NWCH, and Sandi Malcolm – Service Manager

The next day I met with Pegasus Health Care, David Cairns, Suicide Prevention Co-Ordinator, John Robinson, Suicide Prevention and Postvention Co-Ordinator & Gythlian Loveday. Pegasus Health supports many aspects of health and wellbeing in Canterbury and has created a network of organisations who work collectively on a number of issues. They provide services and support to general practices and community-based health providers to deliver quality health care to patients and they are committed to improving health outcomes of the people in their communities. David has worked in this field for ten years and was clear that there are high rates of suicide in Christchurch, but no higher than other parts of New Zealand, and there has not been an increase in suicide rates due to the earthquakes or terrorist attacks. Gythlian made a great point about how isolating and traumatising this line of work can be, with little support, and people can be dismissive of those in the field. Which is why having a network of like-minded individuals can really help. This made me reflect on NW Counselling Hub, Lincoln, UK, where the self-employed counsellors in the Hub all support each other, and how the Hub can bring other organisations into that supportive space in the future!

Recently honoured Dame Susan Bagshaw invited me to a research meeting with a room full of passionate and motivated people. They clapped as we entered the meeting, which I thought was because we were late, but luckily it was to celebrate Susan’s Dame-hood! Glad it’s not just me who’s late to meetings! Ha!

Susan then took me to 298 Youth Health Hub that supports 10 to 24 year olds, in their new facility that they moved to this week. They have been forced to move 5 times since the earthquakes, which has been a sad normality for the businesses and people of Christchurch.

This Youth Health Hub is similar to Headspace centres in Australia, but it felt more homely, with lots of friendly faces around. Young people had clearly influenced the design and feel of the Hub and it has a range of in-house Doctors, nurses, counsellors, and youth workers to support clients.

Susan is an amazing, down to earth and welcoming lady who clearly loves what she does. While we were there everyone wanted her attention and she was signing things whilst attending to a patient too! This reminded me of being the CEO at NWCH! But Susan took it all in her stride and with a smile on her face.

Dame Susan Bagshaw – CEO of 298 Youth Health Centre

Lastly, I met with Michael Hempseed author of Being a True Hero – Understanding and preventing suicide in your community.

Michael has made big strides in supporting communities to tackle suicide prevention. He trains people and provides advice about how best to support people. He is an avid ambassador for suicide prevention and has a wealth of knowledge. We had a long chat about the impacts of sleep deprivation on mental health and suicide ideation, which I found very interesting. I urge everyone to read his book and check out his website for more details.

So, during my last few days here in New Zealand, I have spent time in the amazing library in Christchurch Cathedral Centre – Tūranga. It’s spread over four floors and is just spectacular. I’ve spent many hours working in the quiet room. Think I’ll be visiting our local library in Lincoln a lot more when I’m back, because I got loads of work done, even this blog!

So that’s it! Tomorrow I fly back to London. I have learnt so much, met so many wonderful people and have lots of ideas to make a difference to Lincolnshire and beyond.

I’m so grateful to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for this fabulous opportunity and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Now to write that report… and launch it at the NWCH Suicide Prevention Conference, 10th September, 2019, have you got your ticket yet?

Over and out!

NW x

First week in New Zealand

*Emotional trigger warning – content involves suicide*

7th June 2019

My first week in New Zealand has flown by! I met two organisations in Auckland, both doing fabulous work, before flying on to Christchurch for the final week of my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust research fellowship into Suicide Prevention. What a truly fascinating time I’ve had learning so much about the work they do in this field in Australia and New Zealand. My head is packed with ideas and fresh approaches to discuss in the UK.

In Auckland, I began my week with a visit to The Mental Health Foundation where I met Virginia Brooks, the suicide bereavement service co-ordinator, and Ellen Norman, the manager for Maori Development.

The room that we met in had a very interesting picture with poignant message; Ellen tells the story:

“So, this picture is around suicide. It’s an old Chief who went out fishing for his family. He went out and never came back, so was presumed drowned. His wife sat on that hill, waiting and waiting and waiting for him to come back. She waited until the day she died. So, thinking about it from their context, it was a form of suicide. She yearned so much for her loved one who didn’t return, and her heart was so broken, that she passed away too.”

(L-R) Ellen Norman – Manager for Maori Development, Naomi Watkins – CEO NWCH, Virginia Brooks – Suicide Bereavement Service Co-Ordinator

Ellen continued:

“There’s all kinds of things that we see as different from today’s thinking around suicide. We’ve had those kinds of stories throughout New Zealand, where death arose through yearning of lost loved ones, rather than anything else”.

This particularly apt in the Maori community. Both Ellen and Virginia educated me on Maori beliefs, their strong sense of family and being part of a collective, a community.

The resources that The Mental Health Foundation provide to the people of New Zealand are simply amazing. They have consulted people of all ages to garner their help in designing resources that engage and help people in a meaningful way. I feel we can learn a lot from this, and I plan to engage with people in the UK, to consult them on their ideas of what they believe would work best to engage and help people in a meaningful way, so that NWCH CIC can build and disseminate similar resources.

Later that week in Auckland, I met Genevieve Mora, Co-Founder of Voices of Hope.

She explained:

The idea behind Voices of Hope (VOH), is to promote mental well-being empowerment and recovery. Both Jazz Thornton and I [Co-founders of VOH] have lived experience with mental health, so we wanted to create a platform where we could share people’s stories in an open, honest and real format. We want to trying to get rid of both the stigma and shame that’s attached to mental ill health. I think the difference between the work we do and a lot of other people’s work is that we focus on hope! That’s a big thing for us. We focus on those of us who have overcome difficult mental ill health experiences, because we want others to visit our website and say, ‘oh my gosh, they are all like me, where I was or where I am right now, and they’re now well, so I can be too’. We’re all about inspiring people to keep on fighting!”.

Genevieve Mora – Co-Founder of Voices of Hope and her gorgeous dog Abby

Jazz and Genevieve are both 24 years old and they have hugely inspired me with what they have achieved in just two years. Neither takes a wage and both give their time tirelessly to help others survive their own mental health struggles. They provide videos and lots of support on social media to help break-down the stigma around mental health. Voices of Hope exists to enable people with lived experience of mental ill health to help those who are currently struggling, which reminds me of Roses in the Ocean as discussed in my very first blog from Brisbane, Australia.

So, my time in Auckland came to an end and my research in Christchurch has now begun. I scheduled meetings with five organisations in seven days, all with varying perspectives on Suicide Prevention. For now, I’ll wish you ‘G’day people’, as I’m about to go to my third of the five meetings. Watch this space for my last blog from this incredibly inspirational research trip, thanks to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship programme.