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September 18, 2017 | by  | in Features |
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Let’s Keep Fighting Together

CW: Suicide

 

I want to say something that may be uncomfortable to read and acknowledge. Talking about mental illness and suicide is hard and painful, but we need to be having this conversation and keep pushing for change. We all need to play our part.

Four months ago, I lost my cousin and dear friend Georgia to suicide. Her life does not exist in isolation; she is not simply another sad story or another statistic. She was beautiful, strange in all the best ways, insightful, and the most loving person I’ve been lucky enough to know. Throughout my life Georgia gifted me with more meaning and light than words can ever explain. She was there from day one, and no matter what paths we took she was someone I thought I would never lose. I won’t stop saying her name or telling her story, because her life was special and significant. Georgia was full of hope and promise, but she was let down.

 

photo for Rose feature

 

Georgia was let down by a system designed to benefit those most fortunate and neglect those most vulnerable. Georgia lived through trauma, abuse, mental illness, and addiction. She didn’t receive the help she deserved and needed. As a result, she’s gone and her family are left asking themselves what they could have done differently. This is wrong, because that weight should not only be on our shoulders.

I feel guilty for leaving my home city — a city plagued with mental illness and trauma caused by a natural disaster and neglect from the government — because maybe she felt like I left her behind. I don’t want anyone else to feel this guilt. I don’t want anyone else to lose someone and feel like they could have stopped it, because it can’t just be our responsibility as individuals.

On Sunday, September 10, my beautiful sister Lydia and aunty Bridget spoke at Parliament on behalf of the lives lost to suicide in the past year, including my cousin Georgia. The following day Bill English said he “wasn’t aware” of this event taking place, despite the fact it has been in 20 towns and cities across the country. Yet the National Party claims to be addressing mental illness. He said “suicide can be completely random, young people need to say what’s on their minds.”

Much of the time there is nothing “random” about suicide. Often it is a snowball effect of events that lead to someone taking their life, events that can and should be prevented, help that needs to be in place, to instil hope in those suffering. As someone who has struggled in ways similar to Georgia, finding the professional help you need is not always easy, and it can leave you feeling belittled and hopeless. I know how isolating and terrifying it is to feel like you have to keep pulling yourself out of that hole, as there can be so much guilt that comes with relying on friends and family time and time again. I know that for Georgia too, it was never as simple as just saying what was on her mind. Because with a four month waiting list for the services she needed, how was she to feel her voice was being heard?

New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the OECD. There aren’t many of us, and each life lost has a ripple effect on our country. Too many of us feel the effects of suicide. Too many of us have struggled ourselves. Tragically 606 isn’t even an accurate representation of the the lives lost in the past year, as there are several suicides that aren’t statistically recognised because this would mean acknowledging the extent of this issue. In saying this, the numbers should not define how important this issue is, because even one life lost is one too many.

Georgia’s story is not an isolated event; it’s a story too familiar and too common. This could have been prevented. The funding for mental health services wasn’t provided when it was most needed. She was told she would have to wait. If you’ve suffered with mental illness or addiction you might understand how debilitating it is to be told you have to wait when you are ready to receive help. No one should have to wait. The help should be there.

If you’ve taken the time to read this, thank you. Please recognise how important and vital it is to vote this election. To have your say in changing the government and changing the lives of the people in our country, because you could be literally saving them. Georgia was born with a loving spirit that wanted to help others. She fought until the end, so I don’t want to let her life be defined by how it ended. I want to use her loss as fuel to make her proud and continue my journey in trying to help young people struggling to get by in a world that has harmed them, because I know this is what she would want. So I’m asking you to also care, to listen and learn and keep fighting to make things better for all of us.

If you’re struggling, please don’t give up — I promise that one day it will feel worth it. There is help available. Mental health professionals are kind and hard-working people, and it’s not their lack of empathy or skills that are failing us. What’s failing us is that their services are stretched and lacking government support. I know that being put on a waiting list or having to repeat yourself until you receive a referral can wear you thin. Hold on with all your strength, keep talking to your loved ones, be patient — because there is possibility for change and possibility for more support. It’s worth sticking around to see the other side of the tunnel. If you feel like you’re not being heard, keep shouting until you are. I’ll be shouting with you.

Much love and strength to everyone who is hurting. Let’s keep fighting together x

***

 

If you’ve been experiencing depressive thoughts on a regular basis, or are finding yourself experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, or just want to talk to someone about your own mental health, then please reach out and get in touch with a professional. If it’s an emergency please call 111.

Mauri Ora: Kelburn 04 463 5308, Pipitea 04 463 7474, or email student-health@vuw.ac.nz.

Youthline: 0800 376 633, free text 234, or email talk@youthline.co.nz.

Capital & Coast DHB Te Haika / Mental Health Crisis Team: 04 494 9169 or 0800 745 477 (24 hours).

Suicide Crisis Helpline (for those in distress, or know someone who is): 0508 828 865

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 / www.depression.org.nz.

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