*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.
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.
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!