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.

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